Leftover Pastry Dough – The Roly-Poly


24 Apr Leftover Pastry Dough – The Roly-Poly

Lefover pastry dough turned into a treat - TheMessyBaker.com

Being born at the height of The Depression, my mother never wasted food. When there wasn’t enough leftover pastry dough to top a chicken pot pie, she made a roly-poly.  She made them so often and with such authority, I assumed the roly-poly was the natural conclusion for all such scraps. Turns out –once again — I was wrong.

For the uninitiated, a roly-poly is my mother’s way of turning leftover pastry bits into a treat. Once the pie was baking, she would herd together all the stray bits of pastry. She’d then knead them into a ball, roll them into a long, narrow strip, and with a practiced hand, spread a strip of butter down the centre. A generous coating of brown sugar, a dusting of cinnamon and — if we were very lucky — a sprinkle of chopped walnuts transformed the pastry. She then folded the dough into a log, and brought the ends together in an uneven wreath. The resulting roly-poly baked alongside the pie for 20 seemingly unending minutes.

Because the dough had been over-handled, the rolly-polly usually split. No matter, it emerged from the oven resting in a puddle of cinnamon-scented caramel. Brown sugar bubbled out the cracks warning young fingers to stay away.

As soon as it was cool enough to handle, Mom would cut the roly-poly into bite-sized portions, which we gobbled boldly in the face of our fast approaching dinner. I don’t remember the pies that donated their pastry, but I do remember the roly-polies.

Leftover pastry dough becomes a treat - TheMessyBaker.com

I attempted one after making my dad’s birthday lemon meringue pie. Mine wasn’t long enough to bend, so I baked it as a log. I guess it was just a roly. Regardless, it used up the pastry scraps and a few walnut pieces I’d stored in the freezer just in case I’d need them. Foresight  never tasted so good. Especially with a cup of hot tea in a pottery mugs from my private throw.

A few years ago, I asked readers what they do with the scraps of leftover dough. Some tossed the scraps. Some ate them as is. (Yes, you read that right.) Others made jam tarts, or cheese straws or crackers. With so much focus recently on not wasting food, I thought I’d revisit the topic. Do you salvage leftover pastry? If so, what do you make? And do you give your solutions special names?

Roly-Poly: A recipe for leftover dough
Recipe type: Baked Goods
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Got leftover pie dough? This recipe is a quick and easy way to turn pastry scraps into a snack. There are no measurements since everything depends on how much dough is left to work with. Just eyeball it and you'll be fine.
  • leftover pastry dough
  • butter, room temperature
  • brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • finely chopped walnuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios or pecans will also do)
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Gather up all the rag-tag scraps of dough leftover from making your pie or tarts. Form them into a ball, and on a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a long thin strip about 4 to 6 inches wide. Roll it as thinly as you can without breaking the dough.
  3. Butter the pastry down its length. You want to spread the butter down the centre leaving a good inch on either side. Don't skimp. Pretend it's peanut butter. Yes, you want it that thick.
  4. Sprinkling by hand, cover the butter with a layer of brown sugar. Gently sprinkle the sugar with ground cinnamon, then top with the finely ground nuts.
  5. Fold the unbuttered lengths toward the middle.. They should overlap and cover the filling. If your dough is long enough, shape it into a circle by tucking one end into the other. If your dough isn't long enough to bend, simply pinch the ends to seal them. If your pie was coated with a wash, you can coat the roly-poly too, but it's equally fine to bake the pastry as is.
  6. Place the roly-poly onto the prepared baking sheet and pop it into the oven beside your pie. Don't worry about the oven temperature. If it's hot enough to bake your pie, it's hot enough for the roly-poly. Bake until the roly-poly is golden brown and any brown sugar that escaped is all melted and bubbly. This usually takes 20 minutes, but the timing will vary with oven temperature.
  7. Place the roly-poly pan on a wire rack to cool. If the pie needs to continue baking, leave it in the oven. Just shut the door quickly. Allow the roly-poly to cool slightly. Cut it into pieces and eat while still warm. Or let it cool. It really doesn't matter.
The type of pastry doesn't matter. If you can bake a pie with it, you can turn the scraps into a roly-poly. You can make them with or without nuts. Raisins work nicely, too. Just don't add fresh fruit since it's usually too moist and will spill so unforgivingly you'll have to eat it straight from the pan with a spoon. I learned this the hard way.


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  • Annie
    Posted at 22:37h, 25 April Reply

    What a yummy idea! My mom used to gather the already-rolled scraps and top them with cinnamon sugar, then cut into 2-3″ pieces. Bake and eat. I still do the same. From now on, though, it’s rolly-pollys for me.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:10h, 26 April Reply

      Cinnamon and sugar are hard to beat! This is a great idea. Much simpler, but along the same line. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m glad to hear other families put their pastry scraps to good use!

  • Helene
    Posted at 14:26h, 26 April Reply

    Same here, we never wasted anything on the farm. What my mom did with leftover pastry dough was to simply roll it, cut into different shapes and bake them. No butter or anything on top. I always sit by the oven and watch it as it was baking. I could not wait for the dough to be cooked so that I could eat it.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:11h, 26 April Reply

      I sat by the oven for the roly-poly, so I fully understand your anticipation. Love that your mom cut the pastry into different shapes. Good pastry really doesn’t need a lot of help — as your story proves. Thanks so much for sharing your memories!

  • A Canadian Foodie
    Posted at 15:44h, 03 May Reply

    In the prairies, our roly poly was different. I have written about it, too – search my site for it as I would love you to take a peak at it. Wonder who coined the first roly-poly phrase and how that flavour combination moved across the country…

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:03h, 04 May Reply

      Your family knows the roly-poly? I’m guessing it was an easy and affordable way to reusue otherwise useless pie dough. Likely came from the war years. I could be wrong. I’ll have to check out your version!

      All I know is cinnamon and brown sugar worked their way into many desserts thanks to inventive cooks on a limited budget and restricted ingredients.

  • Donna Rosetta-Hansen
    Posted at 16:19h, 01 December Reply

    We call them roly-poly as well… and make them very similarly, but my mom always cut them into one-ince pieces before cooking.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 21:45h, 01 December Reply

      Your mom cut them before baking? Interesting. I bet they spilled gloriously and caramelized in delicious bit around each section.

      Saving pastry scraps is a delcious way to economize. I’m thrilled to hear you call them roly-polies, too. My mom is known for making things up and passing them off is such a way that you think the entire world does the same. See the story on the Lucky Bay Leaf for one such example. Thanks so much for sharing your family story.

  • Betty agree
    Posted at 08:08h, 15 December Reply

    Hmmmm. Never thought to try brown sugar in roly-polies! My Nany Green made roly-polies with her leftover pie scraps, they were and still are my dad’s favorite! She lived in central Vermont, grew up in the depression, wasn’t one to waste anything, and was a fantastic baker ! My sisters and I all make roly polies to this day…

    • Betty Green
      Posted at 09:47h, 15 December Reply

      Okay, got so caught up in the good memories, I forgot to explain her version! She would roll out the pie crust dough, spread liberally with butter (or oleo, as she called margarine), sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and chopped walnuts, rolled up tight, then spread the top of the log with more butter and cinnamon sugar. She always pre-sliced before baking, but not all the way through. This made them easier to split and share!

      • Charmian Christie
        Posted at 14:54h, 16 December Reply

        Thanks for the detailed explanation. I haven’t heard “oleo” in ages. Love that your grandmother topped the roly-poly off with more butter and cinnamon sugar. The pre-slicing sounds like a very clever idea, too. I’m always amazed at how many variations there are and across so much geography. Like your Nanny Green, my mother grew up in the depression and the no-waste attitude produced some delcious results! Glad you carry on the tradition. Thanks again for sharing your story.

      • Mary
        Posted at 21:40h, 31 December Reply

        That’s how I note my grocery list – oleo = margarine [because growing up that’s what it was called and I can vaguely remember the yellow color packet that came with it], butter = butter LOL

        • Charmian Christie
          Posted at 18:28h, 01 January Reply

          Interesting! I’d never heard of Oleo, but after a quick Google search learned you’re not alone. It seems Oleomargarine was popular in the US. Here in Canada I don’t recall that brand or colour packets, but I do remember no one mistook margarine for butter when I was growing up. Thanks for sharing your memories!

  • ginette
    Posted at 23:39h, 29 December Reply

    Hi, I’m from New Brunswick province and my mom used to make roly-poly.. but we used to call it:: rolly-bolly ..and my mom made it with plenty of sauce ( Brown sugar, can milk and vanilla) mmm yummy… I’m very glad to have found her recipe, here, on this site..

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:32h, 03 January Reply

      I love hearing how these recipes show up in various forms. Rolly-bolly? Makes sense to me. I’ve never heard of them made wth milk, but why not? I’m sure it’s a real butterscotchy treat. Thanks so much for sharing where you’re from. I’m curious to see what provinces (states, countries) have variations on this no-waste trick!

      Happy baking!

  • Carol S-B
    Posted at 19:06h, 16 February Reply

    And who could forget the tale of Samuel Whiskers, or the roly poly pudding (Brits call any dessert, “pudding”)? Beatrix Potter. It’s OK, they never did actually eat Tom Kitten…

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:05h, 17 February Reply

      My mom read Beatrix Potter to us all the time. Why didn’t I see the connection? I loved Mrs. Tiggywinkle, just because her name was fun to say. Thanks so much for the memory jog. I must reread some Potter!

  • Cecelia
    Posted at 00:49h, 30 July Reply

    Just found this because tonight on Chopped the teens had pie crust to work with and I said – roly poly. So I decided to see if anyone else in the world every had roly poly like my mom made and my search brought me to you. Same reasons – my mom from the depression; left over pie crust. After the butter though, peanut butter went on; then brown sugar and cinnamon. Raisins were an addition occasionally. Nuts if we were lucky and chocolate chips if we were really lucky. I could skip the pie and just make roly poly!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:48h, 30 July Reply

      Peanut butter? That’s great. I PBJ roly-poly would be great. I think my mom used raisins occasionally, but they were expensive and saved for cakes. She never put chocolate chips in one, but that would be super too — especially with peanut butter.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I am constantly amazed at how many versions of the roly-poly you can find!

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  • Deb moore
    Posted at 03:22h, 10 September Reply

    I think I’m a lot older than you Charmaine but all the Pennsylvania farmers did this quite often. I was raised in the 50s and mom would make them, no walnuts, then s lice just the top of each one. They were so flaky and good.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:40h, 22 September Reply

      Interesting! Mom didn’t slash the tops, but I like that idea. I love how these ideas crop up in different ways across different cultures. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

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