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A fan tan roll is a type of yeasted bread roll that is traced in origin to New England. You may also see these rolls referred to as Yankee buttermilk rolls, butter buds, or butter rolls, depending upon the recipe. They do require a few extra steps to make, but their rich flavor is well worth the effort.
A fan tan roll is named for its fan shape. The top of the roll is distinct in its sections, producing a fan like appearance. They’re easily split into halves or thirds, because of the way they’re formed. Instead of being shaped into rounds, a baker uses three to five rectangular sections, placed in a muffin cup to produce the fan. Butter is often drizzled over the top to make the rolls browner and richer.
Most cooks agree that the best fan tan roll is one that is composed of rich dough. You can use a variety of bread dough recipes to make this type of roll. Generally, if you want a really rich roll chose brioche dough, or any recipe that contains both milk and eggs. Of course, if you serve these rolls fresh from the oven and add a little butter to the top, you might get away with simpler dough, since fresh hot rolls tend to taste so good.
Some people construct a very elaborate fan tan roll with many thin rectangles of dough added to a muffin tin. The thinner layers of dough tend to produce a roll with a more pastry-like crust on top, and in general, tend to result in a much lighter roll. If you plan to go to the extra work on this, you absolutely should use a recipe high in butter and eggs to get that thin pastry-like taste in the end product. Some people use croissant dough for a crisper pastry.
Of course, you can make a fan tan roll that is a little healthier. Instead of using white flour, consider substituting whole wheat or multi-grain flours of different types for part of the white flour. Leaving some white flour in the dough will help you produce a better tasting and lighter product. Whole wheat and other whole grain flours tend to be fairly heavy.
This can still result in a delicious product, and for extra taste, consider coating the tops of the fans with a little olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil is one of the “healthy” oils, high in monounsaturated fat. It imparts extra taste without adding high saturated fat content to the fan tan roll.