Labor of Love: Buttermilk Fantail Rolls

I’ve had this recipe for Buttermilk Fantails bookmarked for so long that I’m not sure how I originally found it. I know that when I did stumble upon the mouth-watering photograph on, I made a promise to myself that when I had the time – I would make them. Since then, I’ve been waiting for enough time, energy and hungry guests. Because I know if I made them for kicks on a Sunday afternoon solo, I’d end up devouring them all by myself and regretting ever starting a food blog. That is the trouble with this endeavor – you feel guilty for eating it and guilty for letting anything go to waste! I’m lucky to have good hungry friends willing to take one for the team.

These rolls are as delicious as they look and I must admit that it is terribly fun tearing back each buttery layer.

Buttermilk Fantails from Gourmet Magazine February 2009


  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105–115°F)
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey or sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk


Butter muffin cups with 1 Tbsp melted butter. Stir together yeast, warm water, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) Mix flour, salt, buttermilk, and 6 Tbsp melted butter into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Roll out half of dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch square (about 1/8 inch thick; keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap). Brush dough with 1/2 Tbsp butter and cut into 6 equal strips. Stack strips, buttered sides up, and cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces. Turn each piece on a side and put into a muffin cup. Make more rolls with remaining dough in same manner. Separate outer layers of each roll to fan outward. Cover rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and dough fills cups, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Bake rolls until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Brush tops with remaining 2 Tbsp butter, then transfer rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes.

Cooks’ note: Rolls are best the day they’re made but can be frozen (cool completely, then wrap well) 1 month. Thaw, then reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes.


  1. my family, known for both our class and decorum, make dinner rolls in the fantail style for special occasions – we call them pull-apart-buns, but we ALSO make rolls that are made of two rolled balls shoved together in a muffin tin. these we call “hinder buns.” you’re welcome.

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