I don't want to get too intense about how much I like butter fan rolls, but I can't resist. So here's my case:

First, they are just incredibly good. They are buttery, and soft inside, and slightly crisp on the outside, and just a little salty. Second, their fanned layers make them exceptionally pretty to look at, and very impressive (if you need to impress the sort of person who finds baked goods interesting). But, they are not too complicated to master, even if packets of yeast scare you and make you want to run from the kitchen and buy 5 soft warm white pita from the hummus shop around the corner and eat them in one sitting (not that I've ever done that, please).

Third, we'd eat them at every special occasion dinner. They remind me of being little, and they taste like being home. Waking up to see them peeking out of a blue dishtowel on the kitchen counter makes any morning better.


Adapted from an old Gourmet recipe, these use buttermilk but feel free to swap in regular milk. If you want to add chopped herbs (like rosemary) to the dough, you can, but I think they are perfect as is. They reheat beautifully and get a bit crunchier around the edges.

Adapted from Gourmet

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

Butter a muffin tin with one tablespoon of melted butter. Stir together the yeast, water and sugar in a small bowl and let stand until bubbly (about five minutes). Mix the flour, buttermilk, salt, 6 tablespoons of melted butter, and yeast mixture together in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together as a dough (it will be soft and a touch sticky). Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough with as much flour as you need to make it a smooth elastic ball.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. Leave it in a warm-ish place and let it rise for about 1 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough gently and divide it in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one half into a 12 inch square (about 1/8 inch thick). Make sure your square is as precise as possible, otherwise the strips won't match up when you cut into the dough.

Brush the dough square with 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter. Slice the square into 6 equal-sized strips. Stack the strips on top of each other and then slice the stack into 6 pieces. Put each mini stack on its side into a muffin cup. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let rise for about another hour. They should puff up and fill the muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, until barely golden. When they are still warm straight from the oven, brush the tops with the remaining 2 T. of melted butter and then let them cool until taking them out of the tin.