Today’s Holiday Recipe: Homemade Crescent Rolls

Baking fresh bread has been one of my food resolutions for the past several years, but up until last week I was too intimidated by the process to even know where to begin. Fortunately, my mother started a tradition of making homemade crescent rolls nearly 40 years ago with a recipe that is perfect for the novice bread baker.

She found a recipe for “Rich Hot Rolls” from a Farm Journal cookbook called “Homemade Bread,” and they’ve been a perennial favorite at our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts ever since. There’s even a cinnamon roll variation. When asked why she chose these rolls, she said that she loved Farm Journal recipes and wanted one that looked easy enough to make with kids.

Over the years, my four siblings and I have all enjoyed making these rolls with my mom, and our son, Giovanni, began the tradition eight years ago when he was just two. “I love that this is my special time with Grandma,” he said.

Last week was the first time I’d helped make a batch in over 30 years, and I was delighted by the wonderful results I received from this simple recipe. With just eight basic ingredients, the only challenge in making these rolls is in finding time to do it.

The recipe begins with directions to scald ¾ cup of milk, and we found that 2 minutes in a microwave set on high worked well. Shortening is then added to the milk and stirred in with a bit of sugar and salt. The shortening will not dissolve completely, so expect it to be clumpy at this stage.

The recipe calls for 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ cups of sifted flour, but my mom recommends using just four cups in our dry climate this time of year, with another ¼ to ½ cup used to dust the work surface when kneading. We used Dakota Maid all-purpose flour which was light enough to skip the sifting altogether.

We mixed the flour in by hand using a wooden spoon, first adding 1 ½ cups and then beating in two eggs and a yeast/water mixture. We added the remaining flour in stages starting with one cup, followed by a half-cup and then the final cup.

Next, we turned the dough out onto a floured work surface and Gio kneaded it for about eight minutes until it transformed from a sticky clump into a soft and satiny ball of dough. “My favorite part is kneading the dough,” he told me, “because it feels so soft and comfy. My hands are made for forming the dough.”

The dough is then placed in a bowl, covered and left in a warm place to rise for about 1 ½ hours until doubled in size. Gio then punched his fist into the center of the dough, divided it in half and rolled out each half into (rough) circles approximately 16 inches around.

He cut each round into quarters and then cut each quarter into four triangles. We brushed each strip of dough with melted butter, and rolled them into crescent shapes, starting at the widest end, then set them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brushed the top of each roll with more melted butter and then covered them to rise for another 45 minutes before baking.  We found that a 350-degree oven provided more even baking than the recommended 375 degrees.

“I love these rolls because they are so delicious and easy to make,” my mom said. “And I have always loved making them with kids.”

Marilyn’s Crescent Rolls
(called Rich Hot Rolls in Farm Journal’s Homemade Bread Cookbook)

¾ cup milk
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
4 ¼ to 4 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs

– Scald milk; add shortening, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

– Sprinkle yeast on warm water; stir to dissolve.

– Add 1 ½ cups flour to milk mixture; beat well by hand or electric mixer at low speed 1 minute. Beat in eggs and yeast.

– Gradually stir in enough remaining flour, a little at a time, to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of bowl. Turn onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth, satiny and no longer sticky, 5 to 8 minutes.

– Place in lightly greased bowl; invert to grease to top. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Punch down and turn onto board. Divide in half and shape as desired.

– Brush tops lightly with melted butter; let rise until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.

– Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes about 30 rolls, exact number depending on shape and size.

Cinnamon Roll Variation: Roll each half of divided dough into 16×8 inch rectangle. Combine 1 cup sugar, ½ cup melted butter and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Spread half of mixture on each rectangle. Roll lengthwise for jelly roll; seal edges. Cut in 1-inch slices. Place, cut side down, in 2 well-greased 9x9x2” pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, 30 to 40 minutes. Bake in moderate oven (350-375 degrees) 20 to 25 minutes. Remove to wire racks. Makes 32 rolls. Frost as desired.

Marilyn’s Tips:

  • Four cups of flour is recommended for drier climates.
  • To scald the milk, heat in microwave on high for 2 minutes.
  • For crescent-shaped rolls, roll out each half of the divided dough into 16-inch circles, cut into quarters, and then cut each quarter into triangles. Brush each strip with melted butter and, starting at the widest end, roll upwards to make crescent.
  • Excellent for freezing up to at least 2 months.



Today’s Featured Recipes: Turkey Crepes with Pistachio Pesto

Turkey Crepes with Pistachio Pesto

Tony’s talking turkey this morning on North Dakota Today with Chris and Andrea, and is sharing two of our favorite Thanksgiving-inspired recipes: Turkey Crepes with Pistachio Pesto.


Turkey Crepes are an elegant and creative way to utilize leftover turkey meat, or to put a new twist on your Thanksgiving Day menu. The focus of these two recipes is simplicity – these are elegant, yet uncomplicated dishes that you can easily make right at home. Tony even gives us permission to skip the hassle of making crepes from scratch, and encourages us to find fresh ones in the produce department of our local grocery store. As a busy mom, I love any kind of tip that helps me save time – thanks, Tony!

The pistachio pesto couldn’t be easier to make, but don’t let that fool you – with its wonderful nuttiness and buttery flavor, this pesto takes these basic turkey crepes to the next level. This pesto is incredibly versatile, and could also be used with chicken or fish, or even as a dip with hearty crackers. For this recipe, Tony uses pre-shelled and salted pistachios, so no additional salt needs to be added to the pesto.

CLICK HERE for the Turkey Crepes RECIPE

CLICK HERE for the Pistachio Pesto RECIPE

 Be sure to check out our Thanksgiving 101 section here on the blog for Tony’s Top Ten Turkey Tips (T to the 5th), Thanksgiving Wine Pairings and Turkey Thawing Guidelines.

Twenty Years Ago Today…

Twenty Years Ago Today, I woke up, went to the hair salon, and came out with amazingly big 80s hair, for the first, and only, time in my life. So grateful to have this image captured on film for our son to ridicule.

I also married the love of my life. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years, Tony…we made it! We have filled these 20 years with so many adventures, journeys, dreams, accomplishments, new beginnings, and love. Thank you for being my friend, husband, antagonist, champion, partner, lover, and the father to the other love of my life, Gio.

I look forward to enjoying the next 20 years with you, and love our new vow to fill them with dancing, date nights, dining with friends and whatever else life might throw at us.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful that, twenty years ago, a boy with the biggest brown eyes I had ever seen asked if he could carry my duffel bag aboard the M/V World Discoverer. He won my heart that day, forever, and I’m so glad that he chose to get lost with me.

Ti amo moltissimo, per me sei tutto, bello. Happy anniversary, Tony!

Whipped/Mashed Potatoes Q&A: How do I…?

As we expected, potatoes are a popular topic, especially at this time of year. We’ve received a couple of really good questions from our readers about our Whipped Potatoes recipe, and our answers are below:

Marilyn H. writes:
“Love the mashed potato ideas…but how do you strain a pot of potatoes, then put them back in the kettle on medium high heat for 10 minutes without scorching /burning them?”

Tony says:
Great question, Marilyn, and thanks so much for asking us. Of course, every stove is different, so what works on ours may not necessarily work on yours. If you think medium-high will be too hot on your stove, start out at a lower heat, and stir frequently.

If your pot seems to be getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a minute or two, adjust your heat down, and return it to the heat for another minute or two. If the potatoes seem to be getting a little brown, just remove from the heat – they should be ready. Five to ten minutes of extra cooking should be ample.

If you pay attention to the potatoes throughout this process, you should have good results.

M.B. asks:
“Can I make whipped potatoes ahead of time and keep them warm in a crock pot?”

Tony says:
Another great question – who wants to eat cold potatoes? The answer is a resounding yes, the crock pot is a great way to hold the whipped/mashed potatoes until you’re ready to serve them. Just follow these easy steps, and your potatoes should stay warm for up to 4 hours:

  1. Prep the crock pot: Grease the inside of the pot with butter, and pour a small amount of heavy cream into the pot (approx. 1 to 2 tablespoons).
  2. To keep food in the “safe-serving” zone, make sure you transfer the potatoes to the crock pot while they’re still warm – re-heating refrigerated food in a slow cooker is a no-no.
  3. Set the crock pot on LOW and stir at least once an hour, for up to four hours before serving.
  4. Stir the potatoes again before serving, as the cream may tend to separate.

Joyce G. asks:
” I enjoy reading your columns and am planning to make your whipped potatoes for our Thanksgiving meal.  Your recipe specifies unsalted butter, but I only have the regular salted version on hand.  Is it ok to use that and just cut down on the added kosher salt?  How much salt should I use?  Thanks for your help!”

Tony says:
Very good question – Yes, you may use salted butter for this recipe. Taste the potatoes as they’re being mixed and then add kosher salt according to your taste. I would start with a half-teaspoon first and go from there.

The reason we use unsalted butter in all of our recipes is that this allows us to control the level of salt in the recipe, according to our taste. This is a classic rule among professional chefs, but many home cooks are accustomed to using salted butter.

Karen K. asks:

“How do you heat your make-ahead whipped potatoes?”

Tony says:
While there are whipped potato recipes geared for the purpose of making them well in advance of serving, ours isn’t one of them. For best results, we recommend serving the potatoes immediately once they’re ready. *See above answers for heating instructions.

Nona O. asks:
“Can I cook the mashed potatoes a day ahead and then re-heat in the oven the next day like in the morning and then put into a crock pot to keep warm until afternoon serving time?”

Sarah says:
We would not recommend doing this for this particular recipe, as we feel that the potatoes will just be too dry when it’s time to serve them. Instead, I’m going to recommend a recipe from Ree Drummond (a.k.a., The Pioneer Woman), which uses cream cheese.

My grandmother used to make a dish very similar to this one, which she would prepare the day before and bake on Thanksgiving day. To be honest, we don’t know how these will keep once transferred to a crock pot, but if you go this route, add a little cream to the pot before the potatoes go in, and be sure to stir every so often. Hopefully, that should work for you.

Here is Ree Drummond’s mashed potato recipe:

Nona O. asks:
“Would you provide information on how one should re-heat the Sarello’s Whipped Potatoes. Temperature, time and any other suggestions”

Tony says:
Great question, Nona, thank you for asking it. For cold whipped potatoes, we recommend the following:

Place potatoes in a sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of cream, and stir constantly to soften the potatoes and work the cream in. Keep stirring until well mixed and hot. If the potatoes start to dry up, add more cream. This process will take about 5 to 10 minutes.

CLICK HERE for the Sarello’s Classic Whipped Potato Recipe

If you have any questions you need answered before Thanksgiving, feel free to post them here on the blog or send us an email to

Be sure to check out our THANKSGIVING 101 section, which has Tony’s Top Ten Turkey Tips, Thawing Guideilnes, Wine Pairings, and Recipes.

Remember: We’re here for you, and you CAN do this! 🙂