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Crescent rolls can be so much more

Taster’s Choice is transformed to Taster’s Challenge, with recipes featuring a shared ingredient.
Jalapeno Popper Rollups.
Jalapeno Popper Rollups. [ Laura Jolly ]
Published May 6

One of the members of our Taster’s Choice food panel said her family members always wrangle at meals over who gets the last crescent roll. Another said they are a staple at all of her family meals. The gooey, curved rolls, introduced to grocery store refrigerators by Pillsbury in 1965, are also very versatile. We found a variety of recipes for ways to use crescent roll dough for everything from fruit-filled Danish rings to grilled cheese sandwiches and breakfast pies. Our panelists took on the challenge of making some of their favorite recipes from a can of crescent dough.

Once again, our challengers didn’t disappoint. They made savory and sweet options that would impress family members and guests.

Personal chef Kay Hodnett prepared a childhood memory she calls the Jazzy Joe Roll in honor of the sloppy Joes she enjoyed growing up. Laura Jolly put her creation on her website, politicsandprovisions.com. She baked jalapeno popper rollups as a mouth-watering appetizer. Elaine Goller made two options, a breakfast fruit turnover and rainbow-colored palmiers for dessert.

Recipes for crescent rolls have become so popular that Pillsbury now sells Crescent Dough Sheets. Hodnett used that as the basis for her Jazzy Joe Roll. “It just brings back great memories of a favorite dinner,” she said. “Sloppy Joes were a highlight for weekends and family nights.” Her family always had onion rings and coleslaw with their sloppy burgers.

Her new version adds an artistic touch of braiding and seasoning.

Jazzy Joe Roll.
Jazzy Joe Roll. [ Kay Hodnett ]

Jazzy Joe Roll

2 pounds ground beef

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 small green pepper, chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup ketchup

½ cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon yellow mustard

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Pinch of red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 (8-ounce) package refrigerated crescent roll sheet

1 egg plus 1 teaspoon milk, beaten

Snipped chives, minced onion browned in butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown ground beef with onion and green pepper until cooked through. Add garlic and stir 1 minute until fragrant. Drain and return to pan.

Add next 11 ingredients, stirring well to blend. Add ¼ cup water if mixture is too thick. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking 5 more minutes. Mixture will thicken as it cools.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place dough sheet on the parchment, stretching slightly. Evenly mound the meat mixture down the center of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border at the top and bottom and several inches on the sides. Cut diagonal strips, 1 inch wide, on each side. Fold top and bottom pieces up and then alternate left and right strips in braiding motion until meat mixture is totally enclosed, pinching dough if necessary.

Brush with egg wash and top with chives and onion, if using. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand a few minutes, then slice and serve.

Food blogger Laura Jolly prepared something that combines traditional “with a little bit of pop” in her spicy jalapeno popper rollups. It’s one of her go-to brunch items. “The creamy cheese and flaky crescent rolls are melt-in-your-mouth good with a slight taste of heat from the diced jalapenos,” she said. “It was easy and quick to whip up thanks to using the crescent rolls, and the appetizer also makes for a beautiful spread.”

Jalapeno Popper Rollups

1 package original Pillsbury crescent rolls

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature, divided

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 jalapenos, 1 seeded and diced, 1 thinly sliced to garnish the tops of the rollups

¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine 4 ounces softened cream cheese, garlic powder, diced jalapeno and cheddar cheese. Set aside.

Open the package of crescent rolls but do not unroll the dough. Using a serrated knife, slice 1-inch-thick discs and place discs 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Using the back of a spoon or measuring spoon, press into the center of each disc to create a space for the jalapeno filling.

Spoon a dollop of the jalapeno mixture into the center of each disc and top with a sliced jalapeno for garnish.

Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until crescent rolls begin to brown and cheese begins to brown.

Allow rollups to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Picking a “winner” for this challenge was especially difficult because the recipes were so different. But, if pressed, I would probably opt for the savory dishes because of their creativity and flexibility.

That said, Taster’s Challenge panelist Elaine Goller came up with a couple of delicious sweet treats for this bakeoff, and I’m a sucker for palmiers, the palm leaf-shaped cookies and reminders of my best vacations in France.

Goller used colored sugars to make rainbow palmiers. “Cookies and rainbows — who doesn’t love them?” she said. “And it couldn’t be easier considering all you need is a can of crescent roll dough and colored sugars.” She pointed out they could be made with holiday colors or team colors as well.

You could make them with cinnamon sugar, or demerara or turbinado sugars, too. (To make more authentic palmiers, you could use frozen puff pastry.)

Crescent Roll Rainbow Palmiers.
Crescent Roll Rainbow Palmiers. [ Elaine Goller ]

Crescent Roll Rainbow Palmiers

1 can crescent roll dough

Sugars in various colors (or plain sugar and food coloring)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Open crescent roll can and roll dough out on wax paper. Using fingers or a small roller, gently seal all seams to make a single rectangle.

Sprinkle with a little white or turbinado sugar and flip dough over to the other side. (Having a second sheet of wax paper makes this easier.) Orient the dough so it is wider than it is high and use a flat edge to gently score (don’t cut through) the dough into sixths as a guide.

Spread spoonfuls of colored sugar in uniform stripes in order — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple — pressing sugar gently into dough. (You might find it easier to start in the middle and work out.) Roll up each half toward the middle and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Line cookie sheet with parchment or silicone mats.

Slice roll into approximately ½-inch sections and place on cookie sheet at least 1 inch apart, reshaping as needed. Bake 8 to 12 minutes until cookies start to turn golden brown. As ovens and pans vary, start checking at about 8 minutes. Allow palmiers to cool on the sheet a few minutes before using a spatula to release. Trim excess melted sugar if necessary while still warm.

Goller also created delicious fruit turnovers that can be made with any preserves or jam on hand. “I used two of my homemade preserves, cherry and spiced loquat, dusting the latter with cinnamon sugar so we could tell them apart after baking,” she said.

Crescent Roll Turnovers.
Crescent Roll Turnovers. [ Elaine Goller ]

Crescent Roll Turnovers

1 can crescent roll dough (makes 4 large or 8 small turnovers)

Jam or preserves

Sugar for finishing (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out crescent dough and carefully separate each triangle. For large turnovers, spread jam generously on half of the pieces, leaving just a little of the edges exposed. Lay another triangle on top. If making small turnovers, spread jam on half and fold over to seal, shaping the dough as you go. Gently seal, using the tip of a fork to make a pretty finish. Sprinkle with finishing sugar if desired.

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.