Fantails are a laminated pastry; the name refers to their shape. They are made by cutting laminated dough into squares, turning the squares on their sides, and baking them in muffin cups. When the dough expands during baking, the squares open up in the individual cups like a fan, and because the cut sides are facing up, you can see all the layers of the lamination. I started making them when I was the head baker at Per Se. Thomas Keller was coming to town and had called ahead to ask that I have these ready on his arrival. I followed the recipe from the baker who preceded me to a T. Thomas loved them, and they became part of my repertoire. The year I left Per Se, I made my own version of fantails for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner and they’ve since become part of my regular Thanksgiving spread. The layers of the fantails may come apart when you remove them from the pan, but don’t worry about it, those crunchy bits are the first thing your guests (and you!) will reach for in the bread basket.
You want to make your butter packet in advance, or while the dough is in the refrigerator. Place the packet in the refrigerator to chill until you’re ready to laminate the dough, then remove it from the refrigerator to soften it slightly when called to do so in the recipe.
Note: This recipe calls for cracked butcher’s pepper, which is a larger grind than what you get out of a pepper mill. If you were to analyze what comes out of a mill, it is a mixture of powder and larger chunks. Butcher’s pepper consists solely of the chunks. It is sold at specialty food stores and butcher shops. To make your own, coarsely grind peppercorns in a spice grinder. Pass the ground pepper through a fine-mesh strainer. Reserve the strained pepper for seasoning meats or to use in cooking. Use the chunks of pepper left in the strainer for these fantails.
Excerpted from A GOOD BAKE: The Art and Science of Making Perfect Pastries, Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and Breads at Home by Melissa Weller with Carolynn Carreño. Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Weller. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. —Food52
- Serves 12 fantails
- Black Pepper Fantails with Salted Honey Butter
(480 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
(50 grams) granulated sugar
(9 grams) instant yeast
(12 grams) fine sea salt, plus additional 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) for the honey butter
plus 2 teaspoons (15 grams) cracked butcher’s pepper
(240 grams) whole milk
(50 grams) large egg
(17 grams) large egg yolk
(140 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
Nonstick cooking spray
Butter Packet, chilled, recipe to follow
unsalted butter, melted
mild-flavored honey (such as wildflower or clover)
- Butter Packet
(170 grams) unsalted butter
- Black Pepper Fantails with Salted Honey Butter
- Make the dough: Put the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
- Place the milk, egg, and egg yolk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the dry ingredients and butter on top. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand and wipe the dough hook clean with a wet hand. Place a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap over the bowl and set the dough aside at room temperature to ferment for 1 hour.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
- Use a plastic bowl scraper to scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the prepared baking sheet. Using wet hands, pat and form the dough gently into an 8-inch square. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours. (If you are refrigerating the dough for longer than 1 hour, remove it from the refrigerator after 1 hour, wrap it in plastic wrap, and return it to the refrigerator.)
- Laminate the dough: Remove the butter packet from the refrigerator and set it on the counter to soften until it is bendy but still cool; this could take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on how cold it is and on the texture of the dough. You want the butter to be slightly softer and more malleable than the dough but not so soft that it will ooze out of the dough.
- Lightly dust a large flat work surface with flour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap the dough, and place it on the floured surface. Lightly dust the top of the dough and the rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough to a rectangle that is roughly 14 inches from side to side and 11 inches from top to bottom, dusting the work surface, rolling pin, and top of the dough lightly with flour as you roll the dough, so it doesn’t stick.
- Open the parchment packet to expose the butter and flip the packet over to place the butter on the dough, centering the 10-inch length of the butter packet on the 11-inch length of dough. Run your hand over the parchment paper so that the heat of your hand helps to peel off the paper. Peel off and discard the parchment paper. Fold the left and right sides of the dough over the butter so they meet in the middle and pinch the two edges of dough together with your fingers. Gently press the top and bottom edges of the dough together to seal the packet closed and lock in the butter.
- Make two letter folds: Lightly dust a large flat work surface with flour. Lightly dust the top of the dough and the rolling pin with flour and roll the dough to 18 inches from top to bottom, dusting the work surface, rolling pin, and top of the dough lightly with flour as you roll the dough, so it doesn’t stick. Using a pastry wheel or a bench knife, trim the top and bottom edges of the dough just enough to expose the layer of butter in the center of the dough, discard them. Fold the top edge down two-thirds and fold the bottom edge to meet the top edge, so the dough is folded into thirds, like a letter.
- Rotate the dough 90 degrees so the closed edges are facing left and right and one of the open edges (with the visible layers) is facing you. Lightly dust the work surface, rolling pin, and dough with flour and roll out the dough to roughly 18 inches from top to bottom, dusting with flour as needed. Trim the top and bottom edges to expose the butter layers and add the trimmings to your baked trimmings or discard them. Fold the top edge down and the bottom edge up to make a second letter fold.
- Wrap the laminated block of dough in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer to chill for 1 hour. Move the dough from the freezer to the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours to retard the dough.
- Cut the fantails: Remove the laminated block of dough from the refrigerator and set it on the counter to rest for 20 to 30 minutes, until you can feel that the butter layers inside the dough are just becoming malleable (but not soft) when you bend the block slightly.
- Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
- Lightly dust a large flat work surface with flour. Unwrap the dough and place it on the floured surface with the long edge parallel to you. Lightly dust the top of the dough and the rolling pin with flour. If the dough is smaller than a 7 1/2-inch square, roll the dough out to those dimensions. n Cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares with a pastry wheel or a large chef’s knife.
- Turn the fantail cubes on their sides and place 2 pieces in each muffin cup. Cover the muffin tin with a damp, lightweight kitchen towel and set it aside in a warm place for about 1 hour to proof the fantails until they just start to puff up.
- Make the honey butter: While the fantails are proofing, place the butter, honey, and fine sea salt in a medium bowl. Whisk vigorously to combine
- Bake the fantails: Arrange the oven racks so one is in the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the muffin tin on the center rack of the oven and bake the fantails for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are deep golden brown, rotating the muffin tin from front to back halfway through the baking time so the pastries brown evenly.
- Remove the muffin tin from the oven. Immediately brush the fantails with the honey butter and sprinkle each fantail with a generous pinch of flaky sea salt. Set the muffin tins on a cooling rack and let the fantails cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the fantails and serve them warm or at room temperature.
- Butter Packet
- Place a 12 x 15- or 16-inch piece of parchment paper on a flat work surface with the long side parallel to you. Fold the side edges inward and the top and bottom inward to create a 10 x 6-inch rectangle. Slice the butter 1/4 inch thick lengthwise.
- Open the paper packet and lay the butter slices in a single layer like tiles within the rectangle created in the center of the folded paper. Refold the packet to enclose the butter and flip the packet so the seam is facing down. Let the butter packet rest at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes, until the butter is very soft but not greasy. Roll a rolling pin over the packet to distribute the butter in an even layer to the edges and corners of the packet with no spaces between the tiles. Put the butter packet in the refrigerator to chill until it is firm, about 20 minutes, and for up to 2 weeks.