Pesto Fans

I’m a big fan of pesto. In recent years I haven’t made it as much as I’d like because I haven’t had access to a ready supply of basil. Of course I could buy it, and sometimes did, but I got spoiled for fresh-picked basil pesto when we lived in Vermont and I had a decent vegetable garden, something I’ve never managed to quite get going in all the years we’ve lived in California. It’s quite lame, actually.

I’m happy to report that this year, inspired by my brother-in-law’s incredible garden, I now have a small plot of my own, a raised bed in our tiny but eminently sunny front yard. It’s not what the real estate agents would tell you makes for optimal curb appeal in this suburban neighborhood, but the back yard is just too shady for most summer vegetables. Grass lawns are so 20th-century anyway.

I got a late start, so while other gardeners around here are already harvesting squash, peppers, and tomatoes, mine won’t be ready for another few weeks. But I have herbs! Last night I picked the first basil of the season, and buried my nose in it for about 20 minutes before I got down to the business of making the pesto.

Luckily for this morning’s baking, there were only two of us for dinner, so there was some pesto left over after dressing our fettuccine, and I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. KitchenMage’s rosemary fans had caught my eye when she posted about them last year. The shaping was like nothing I had seen before: the technique so simple, the effect so charming, and the filling possibilities so varied.

I used pesto for half the rolls, and olive oil with chopped oregano for the other half. As kitchenMage suggested, really any fresh herb(s) would be lovely, and the oregano fans were. The pesto fans, though, were extra lovely, and if you’re a pesto fan I humbly suggest saving some of your next batch so you can be a pesto fan fan too.

I am delighted to send these fans to Grow Your Own at Andrea’s Recipes.

Pesto Fans and/or Herb Fans
Inspired by kitchenMage’s Rosemary Fans

Yield: 12 pesto fans and 12 herb fans


  • Mix and ferment sponge: About 3 hours
  • Mix final dough: 10 minutes
  • First fermentation: 1 hour
  • Shape: 10 minutes
  • Proof: 45 minutes – 1 hour
  • Bake: 25 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 78F

Sponge Ingredients:

  • 300 g whole wheat flour
  • 300 g water
  • 1 g instant yeast

Final Dough Ingredients:

  • 800 g flour
  • 100 g whole rye flour
  • 475 g (approximately) water
  • 48 g olive oil
  • 24 g (4 t.) salt
  • 4.5 g (1.5 t.) instant yeast
  • all of the sponge

Filling Ingredients:

  • For the pesto fans:
  • About 1/4 c. of your favorite pesto (mine follows)
  • For the herb fans:
  • 2 – 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. fine chopped fresh herbs


  1. Mix the sponge ingredients and ferment at warm room temperature until approximately doubled, about 3 hours.
  2. Combine all of the the final dough ingredients (reserving a little of the water) and mix by hand or on low speed in a stand mixer until well incorporated. Add water as needed to make a medium-consistency dough.
  3. Continue mixing until the gluten reaches a medium-high level of development.
  4. Ferment the dough for one hour at warm room temperature.
  5. On a lightly-floured counter, roll the dough into an 18 x 24-inch rectangle. Cut the dough in half to make two 12 x 18-inch rectangles.
  6. Spread a thin layer of pesto on one piece of dough. Brush the other liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped herbs.
  7. Cut the oiled, herbed rectangle in half to get two 9 x 12-inch rectangles. Place one on top of the other, keeping the oiled side up. Repeat so you have a 6 x 9-inch stack of four layers.
  8. Cut the stack into 12 pieces. Use a dough cutter to cut straight down on the dough rather than dragging through it.
  9. Stand the pieces on edge in the oiled muffin tin so that a clean-cut edge is pointing up. Use your fingers to fan the layers out a little.
  10. Repeat with the pesto-spread dough.
  11. Slip the rolls into a large plastic bag and proof for 45 – 60 minutes at room temperature, until nearly doubled in bulk.
  12. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425F.
  13. Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.
  14. Cool for 10 minutes in the tins, then remove to a wire rack to complete the cooling.



  • 2 cups (packed) basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 ounce finely grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste


  1. Place the basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor. With the processor running, add the oil in a thin stream and process until the basil is very fine.
  2. Add the cheese, salt, and pepper, and pulse several times to combine.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Peter says

    Susan, I don’t think I’ve ever come across this concept and it’s rather novel. Why I would dunk these warm rolls into some more olive oil!

  2. says

    That’s a really interesting shaping method. Maximizes the crustiness in a small package. I really like how it blooms out.

  3. says

    Oh, those look so good! And I have a glut of basil right now, so it’s a perfect time to try these. The technique of putting them into muffin tins is very much like making fan tans, and old-fashioned kind of roll my family enjoys. Thanks for sharing your delicious post with Grow Your Own!

  4. says

    They look great! It’s winter here so my basil is on its last legs, but a winter herb and walnut pesto could make a nice substitute until summer’s here.

  5. says

    That shaping is like nothing I have ever seen before either!I love them! Pesto in bread – fantastic! I have some Greek basil growing on my balcony, I love it’s mini leaves and really strong flavour.

  6. Steve says

    Once again a standard to which others should be measured. I don’t know if I’m understanding the proceedure. Do you combine the pesto spread dough and the herbed dough or are they one in the same?

  7. says

    Those look delicious! I have some rosemary-olive oil loaves rising in my refrigerator at the moment. The rosemary is from my garden. There’s nothing like fresh garden herbs!

  8. says


    I just made a huge batch of pesto from my over abundant basil plant and now I know exactly what I’m doing with part of it this weekend, making Pesto Fantail Rolls!

  9. says

    Peter, glad to introduce you to a new technique. You may not need the extra olive oil, these have quite a lot!

    Jude, those were my thoughts exactly. Just be aware that the crust is pretty soft, because of the oil.

    Andrea, I’m so happy I can participate in GYO and always look forward to the other fabulous entries.

    maybelle’s mom, I though it was a great idea when I first saw it too.

    rainbowbrown, I’m glad you like them.

    Ulrike, thanks!

    Tim, sounds great, keep us posted.

    Helen, I have a Greek basil plant also, in addition to the sweet basil, and I love it too. And the plant seems a lot sturdier than the sweet basil.

    Steve, I’m glad someone else has those moments too. Actually, although I kept mine separate, you could certainly combine the two with alternating layers in one stack if you wanted to.

    Claire, I agree completely. I love rosemary also!

    breadchick, I hope you like them!

    Tanna, yes, I’m looking forward to a lot more pesto this summer!

    Ann, thank you!

    Marysol, thanks for visiting!

    Jeremy, absolutely! I’d never use the pesto in baking until I’d made sure my pasta had its fill. I didn’t make the pasta fresh this time though.

  10. Debbie says

    When you mention “flour” is it the Unbleached All-Purpose flour that you mention in the link that you use most? Could these be made with 100% ww flour, or even with 100% white whole wheat flour?

    They look delish!

  11. says

    I see how you decided to use the excess pesto! Looks delicious and pretty. I, unfortunately, decided to forgo the veggie garden this year because for once, I was realistic about what the summer would be like with kids all over the place. I don’t even have fresh herbs except in a couple pots. Pathetic. I do get huge bunches of basil in my weekly organic veggie basket.


  1. [...] Le nom "pain au levain "  évoque un pain rustique, avec un bon goût profond qui nous fait rêver d’une autre époque, du travail d’un artisan boulanger d’antan.Mais le pain au levain peut aussi être aussi un bon pain sucré et moelleux. J’ai voulu créer une recette d’une gourmandise pure, faite avec une pâte sucrée au lait et au levain, remplie de fruits secs et de sucre vergeoise, formée en petits pains individuels. Mmmmm ! Avec un thé, divin.La forme vient de Susan de Wild Yeast et ses petits éventails au pesto. [...]

  2. [...] Brötchen dieser Art hatte ich bei Susan entdeckt und sie sahen so schön und verlockend aus. Allerdings wollte ich sie anstelle mit Pesto lieber mit einer Kräuterpaste füllen, damit sie laktosefrei und histaminarm bleiben. Und so habe ich Basilikum, Petersilie und Knoblauch mit Öl zu einer leuchten grünen Paste pürierert und zwischen die Teigschichten gestrichen.  Beim Teig habe ich einmal mehr eine Variante des “Über-Nacht-Teigs” genutzt, dieses Mal wurden die Brötchen bereits abends geformt und durften im Kühlschrank gehen. [...]

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