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Fan Tan Dinner Rolls

Fan Tan Dinner Rolls
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Who doesn’t love a buttery dinner roll? No matter what season it is or what’s on the menu, a good roll is like the proverbial little black dress — always appropriate and always in style.

I’ve been a vegetarian for over a decade, but in truth I consider myself more of a “carbohydratarian.” My love for the almighty grain and in any of its bread, pasta, rice, and pretzel forms has always been more appealing to me than a carrot or Brussel sprout…or even chocolate. I’d take a French baguette over fudge any day, so I consider myself a bit of a bread expert.

These buttery, light, tender “fan tan” dinner rolls are pull-apart perfection, and originated right here in New England. Small enough to accompany a meal and help mop us a sauce or gravy, but tasty enough to eat on their own without extra butter. Buttery bread doughs are satiny and easy to work with, so making these fan tan rolls is also a bit less tricky than some other rolls.

Fan-Tan Rolls
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Making Fan-Tan Rolls dough.

I use a large plastic pitcher to measure my dough while it’s rising, but you’ll know for sure it’s ready when you press a finger into the dough and it keeps its shape. Gently roll it out and (you guessed it) add more butter, this time melted.

Fan-Tan Rolls
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Adding the butter.

I used a pizza cutter to make even strips of dough. You can see my measuring tape helped me keep things mostly even.

Fan-Tan Rolls
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Cutting the dough into strips.

Then the strips are stacked on top of each other before being cut again, into individual portions.

Fan-Tan Rolls
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Stacking the strips.

The little stacks are placed into muffin cups, and you’ll want to gently separate the end of the “fans” a little so they bake up in a nice shape.

Fan-Tan Rolls
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Arranging the cut stacks into muffin tin cups.

When the rolls come out of the oven they remind me of a cluster of underwater sea anemones, delicately reaching this way and that. They also smell heavenly. On baking day I had my windows wide open, and my landlady Helen called to me from outside to ask what on Earth I was making that smelled so good. Always a positive sign!

Fan Tan Rolls
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Golden brown Fan-Tan Rolls.

Like string cheese or those chocolate candy oranges, part of the fun in eating fan tan rolls is peeling them apart, layer by layer, and savoring each buttery bite.

Fan-Tan Rolls
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Peel-apart buttery goodness.

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Aimee Seavey


Aimee Seavey


As Yankee's Digital Editor, Aimee manages, produces, and promotes content for Yankee's digital and social media initiatives. A lifelong New Englander, she loves history and a good Massachusetts South Shore bar pizza.
Updated Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

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