Monday, September 10, 2012

Recipe: Country Fan Tan Rolls

Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but principally by catchwords. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Rolls, fresh from the oven.
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Before first rise.
I was making a braised pork roast on the weekend. It takes two hours. Since I obviously had time on my hands (ha, ha…) I pondered about what else to make to complete the meal.

All kidding aside, a braised roast is a godsend if you’re busy. You put everything in a pot and walk away for a couple hours. So what other sort of recipe has that kind of timeline? Bread – or rolls to be precise.

I hadn’t made rolls in a very long time.The weather lately has been unusually good natured for making bread. The dough just loves all this humidity. You can tell by looking at my recent posts.

If you’re going to “the trouble” to make rolls you may as well go all the way. In for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes. It’s precious little more work to make fan tan rolls than regular rolls.

After first rise of 1-1/2 hours. Over twice as big.
Fan tan rolls hail from New England. Sometimes they’re called Yankee rolls. Nova Scotia has many close ties with the New England states and many of our families have members who live on both sides of the border.

Fan tans derive their name from their fan shape. They’re really easy to form. You simply roll and cut the dough into pieces and then place in muffin tins. Fan tans can have two, three, four or more "fans."

I remember fan tan rolls from when I was little and fundraising suppers were held at the village firehall. Those were the times when the members of the Women’s Auxiliary pulled out all the stops. 

Everyone brought their best recipes. Invariably there was at least one moist red velvet cake (that reminds me I haven’t made one of those yet…) and fan tan rolls. Those rolls... They were so “fancy” to my child’s mind. It wasn’t even like I was eating bread. It was something else altogether.

36 pieces make 12 rolls.
I can’t remember the bakers were who brought these amazing rolls but I remember them as being tender, buttery and delicious. It’s funny what sticks in your mind from when you were young.

Firehall suppers, swimming in the lake, walks in the woods, loving family, good friends... I was a lucky boy. If only we could bottle those feelings. I guess recipes from childhood are ways to relive those simpler times.

Remember, bread is nothing to be afraid of. If you can proof yeast you’re 3/4 the way home. Also, bread isn’t something you have to “tend.” 

The full time may be long, but most of that is waiting for the yeast to do its thing. You can carry on with your other tasks virtually undisturbed.

Try these. It’s amazing what homemade bread can do for your state of mind.

Country Fan Tan Rolls
Prep: 25 min  |  Rise: 2 hours  |  Bake: 20 min  | 12 rolls
When you see a picture the mystery disappears.
1 cup warm water (110°F-115°F)
2-1/2 tsp active dry yeast (about 1 packet)
1 heaping tbsp white sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (optional)

Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Let stand in a warm spot until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Once the yeast has proofed, add the butter, salt and flour. Turn the dough out onto a board and knead for 10 minutes by hand, or 5 minutes with a dough hook. Today, for something different, I did it by hand. I now remember why I use the dough hook…

The dough will be damp feeling but won’t stick to your hands. If it does, add a little more flour, but just enough to stop the sticking.

Let them rise again for another 1/2 hour.
Lightly butter a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat. Cover with plastic wrap (I use a grocery bag tied tight – works very well) and a cloth. If it’s a little cool out wrap the bowl with a towel. Let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down and roll it out to a 12x18 rectangle. Cut the dough into six long strips and then each of those into six equal pieces. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and then stack into threes. This gives you one dozen rolls with three fans each.

Butter a 12 cup muffin tin and place the stacks of dough in the pan. Cover with plastic and a cloth and let rise again until doubled, about 1/2 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rolls in the hot oven and let bake for between 18 to 20 minutes. They will be golden brown on top.

Let cool slightly and then serve, with more butter of course!

Nothing says lovin' like something from the oven.
(apologies to the Pilsbury dough boy slogan)

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