Thanksgiving Week Continued: Bread Illustrated’s Butter Fan Rolls

Earlier this week, I blogged about one Thanksgiving baking project: Bobbette & Belle’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie. Today, we keep with the Thanksgiving baking theme, but we move to a different course.


We attended a huge Thanksgiving potluck dinner over the weekend, and I volunteered to bring a seriously underrated food item: dinner rolls. In my experience, dinner rolls usually suck. In a buffet, if there are dinner rolls, I will usually skip over them – there are simply too many better options to fill my plate with.

However, every now and then, a roll will blow my mind. My friend Charlotte’s grandmother makes the most divine butter rolls (we call them grandma buns). I knew that if the butter fan rolls in the Bread Illustrated cookbook were even a fraction as good as the grandma buns, they’d be a hit.


The recipe for the butter fan rolls is oddly placed in the “starting from scratch” chapter. This is first chapter in the book. Most of the recipes here are introductory and easy; however, I’d say the butter fan rolls are a little more labour intensive than others in this chapter.


The good news is that the buns can be baked in a single day. The first step is to combine the dry ingredients (all purpose flour, yeast, salt), then the wet ingredients (whole milk, melted unsalted butter, eggs, and sugar – okay, sugar isn’t a wet ingredient, but it dissolves), then you mix the dry with the wet.



I’ve baked a few enriched doughs lately, which I find tend to have a little difficulty “catching” in the stand mixer. I scraped the bowl often, but still – after the first step, my dough looked an awful lot like BRAINS.


Cool? Yes, but wrong holiday – this is Thanksgiving, not Halloween. For what it’s worth, I made this recipe twice in the same day because I had many mouths to feed. The second time around, it still looked like brains.


The dough looked less brain-like after some kneading by hand. I then left it to rise. It didn’t puff up as much as I had hoped. I left it about half an hour longer for my second batch, which did make a difference. I guess that’s the effect of the weather getting cooler – now I have to proof just a little longer.


Here’s where the dough requires a little extra love. First, you split the dough in two. You roll each half out into a large rectangle, which you trim to ensure your ends are nice and tidy.


The rectangle is divided into six strips of dough, which are brushed with melted butter and stacked atop one another. The stacked dough is once again divided into six mini stacks. The process is repeated for the other dough half, yielding 12 mini stacks.


The stacks are then placed in a muffin tin. The first batch (pictured) were a little flimsy looking – the second, longer-rise batch were a little sturdier in the muffin tins. I also rolled the second batch a little more evenly so the taper effect in the photo above was a little less pronounced.

The dough is given time to rise in the muffin tins before going into the oven.


In theory, the dough pieces should fan out nicely in the oven. I mostly achieved this, although I did learn to really pinch the bottom of the stacks together in my second batch. I had a few split buns that fell into two pieces in the first batch.


I have to admit, the buns had quite a wow-factor – they’re definitely showier than your average dinner roll.


As for the taste – well, they aren’t quite the caliber of the grandma buns – but they’re very good. They have a nice buttery flavour and the inside is nice and soft. They’re perfect for mopping up extra gravy and cranberry sauce.


Beginner buns, they are not – but they’re also far better than your average dinner roll.

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4 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Week Continued: Bread Illustrated’s Butter Fan Rolls

  1. I haven’t made dinner rolls in years (decades?), but they were a staple of my dinner parties at one time, they’re so much better than store bought. These are spectacular. But do try to get Charlotte grandma’s recipe, it sounds like it’s worth it.


    • It seems like the breads that get the least amount of attention – dinner rolls, burger buns – are those that shine the most when they’re homemade. But they always seem so boring to make!


  2. Pingback: Thanksgiving Weekend Finale: Capra’s Turkey and Trails Run | Out of Bounds Squamish

  3. Pingback: Bread Illustrated’s Flour Tortillas: You’ve Never Met a Tortilla Like This Before | Out of Bounds Squamish

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