Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

What’s everyone’s favorite holiday?

I’d say my favorite is…whichever one is coming up next – I’m an impatient gal!  Though has anyone else noticed that Christmas decorations and promos are already out and it hasn’t even hit Thanksgiving yet?  Oh well, the more the merrier.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

The last time I tried to make something for a Thanksgiving potluck, it was a complete failure.  In favor of simplicity, I decided to go with classic pigs-in-a-blanket using canned croissant dough and american cheese slices.  Of course, the cheese oozed out all over the baking sheet and the entire mass of dough and hot dogs and rubbery processed cheese fused into a giant burned monstrosity.  I managed to salvage a few sad looking piggies with some calculated knife work, but my contribution to that year’s Friendsgiving was respectfully left untouched.

I missed last year’s office Thanksgiving potluck, but this year I was determined to redeem myself.  While dessert (pie, oh glorious pie) will always be my first love, recently my heart has been stolen away by another suitor: warm, fluffy, homemade bread.

It’s interesting to realize that most people in this day and age probably have never had homemade bread.  It’s just so much easier to buy the packaged stuff, and baking with yeast can feel intimidating; I know I felt completely clueless the first time I ripped open that mysterious little packet of yeast.  But thankfully, homemade bread is making a comeback and there are plenty of recipes and detailed guides to be found on the Internet – a trend I might say is the “best thing since sliced bread” *badum-cha* (okay…I’ll stop).

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

I find bread making to be incredibly therapeutic.  I don’t own a bread machine or a stand mixer, so I knead everything by hand.  Technology definitely makes things easier and faster, but personally I enjoy taking the time to let loose any of my pent-up stress on a gloopy, sticky, shapeless dough and making something smooth and beautiful out of it.  Then with just a little time and warmth, poof! like magic, the dough puffs up like a kid all grown up.  It never fails to put a smile on my face to see the dough alive and kicking.

Dinner rolls have always seemed to me a humble food item at the Thanksgiving table, offering its unwavering support to the massive turkey or glorious gravy-drizzled mashed potatoes.  Humble, but essential.  But for this potluck, I wanted to let these rolls dress up a little.  Have fun with a little pizzazz, let them go to the prom.  Enter this adorable idea to shape bread rolls from Beyond Kimchee!  So simple yet so cute.  After the first rise, all you have to do is divide the dough, shape each roll in a ball, and make eight cuts all the way around.  Let the rolls rise (also known as proof) the second time while the oven preheats, brush on an egg wash, and stick a pecan slice in the center for the “stem”.

(Unfortunately, despite my best intentions to not mess it up this year, I still overproofed the dough due to underestimating the power of my radiator!  Still, these rolls were quite forgiving and, in their imperfection, still taste wonderful.)

Though I used Beyond Kimchee’s method for shaping the rolls, I adapted a recipe for pumpkin rolls from King Arthur Flour for the actual dough because I’ve made them before to great success.  Some people in the office can’t have dairy, so I made these dairy-free; for recipes such as this one where butter contributes significantly for flavor, I find that a teaspoon of butter flavoring emulsion (I love LorAnn’s emulsions) helps tremendously.  Because these rolls needed to keep their shape, I used baking sheets instead of circular/loaf pans and shortened the baking time accordingly.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Naturally, I had to sacrifice one roll for taste testing before packing up the rest for the potluck – soft, fluffy, flavorful, with a bonus toasted pecan on top.  Looks like Cinderella won’t be wanting for a carriage tonight!

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

makes 24 rolls
low sugar/diabetic friendly, low fat
egg free/dairy free/vegan options available

adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk of choice – I’ve used 2% or almond milk
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter or vegan butter*
  • *if vegan butter is used, 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
  • 2 large eggs or suitable egg replacement like Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg for egg wash (optional)
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.  Add all wet ingredients and mix until ingredients are fairly incorporated and the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured or lightly oiled surface. Knead the dough into a smooth, firm ball – when you poke it, the dough should spring back, indicating gluten development.
  3. Lightly oil a large and clean bowl.  Place the dough ball in it and cover with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in a warm place (but not right on top of the radiator!) to rise for 60-75 minutes, until the dough is puffy though not necessarily doubled in size.  The microwave or oven (turned off) are usually good places for happy yeast, if the rest of your house is too cold.
  4. After the first rise is complete, press out the air and divide the dough into 24 pieces.  Keep any dough you are not working on at the moment covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel so that it doesn’t dry out.  Working one roll at a time, shape each piece into a ball, then cut eight equally spaced slits all the way around.  Place rolls on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or nonstick silicone, spaced 12 per baking sheet allowing room to grow.  Keep the baking sheet covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel as well to keep the rolls from drying out.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Set aside the shaped rolls to rise a second time for about an hour.
  6. Once ready to bake, if you want to do an egg wash then whisk one egg together and gently brush each roll with the wash.  Stick a pecan sliver into the center of each roll.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops of each roll is golden and the bottoms are browned.  Serve warm or allow to cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap to store.

Nutritional description: thanks to the moisture from the pumpkin and a hint of spice from the cinnamon, these rolls are able to stay tender and flavorful while still low fat and low sugar.  Keeping the portion size reasonable at 24 rolls per recipe, one serving is also low calorie and fairly low carb.  Pumpkin also provides tons of nutritious vitamins, minerals, and a healthy little boost of fiber – one roll provides almost 15% of your daily vitamin A needs!

Nutritional information (calculated without vegan substitutions): Calories 111, Total Fat 2.5g, Saturated Fat 1.4g, Cholesterol 23.1mg, Carbs 17.8g, Fiber 0.7g, Sugars 2.9g, Protein 3.6g, Sodium 205.1mg

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