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What is a Fan Tan Roll?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On Aug 29, 2014

I love bread, and I try to limit the amount I eat otherwise I'll need to spend 24 hours a day in the gym. In my opinion, no body does bed like the French. A friend and I spent a vacation in Paris when I was much younger. We stayed in a little hotel tucked away on some back street. It was exactly what you would expect of an old hotel in that city.

As part of the package, we received a free breakfast each morning, and there were three breads served with each meal. They were all great, but the croissant was by far the best. I would like to try one of these fan tan rolls made with croissant dough.

By Laotionne — On Aug 29, 2014

I went to a friend's apartment for dinner the other night. The main course was pasta with tomato sauce. Instead of the regular French bread that I am accustomed to eating with pasta, my friend served this unusually shaped garlic bread. She called the bread fan tan garlic bread.

Sounds like the shape is the same as the fan tan roll, but I guess the garlic is a variation on the original bread. The bread was very good. Actually, the bread was better than the pasta.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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