We Knead To Bake #33 : Spiced Pumpkin Bread Rolls For Thanksgiving
It’s almost Thanksgiving and it seems nothing quite says autumn/ fall in the U.S. without pumpkin. It’s the season for this vegetable (fruit actually) and it’s not surprising that their holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving are incomplete without the pumpkin.
Thanksgiving in the U.S. is incomplete without pumpkin pie and the use of pumpkins in Thanksgiving meals in the U.S. goes back to the 1600s when early immigrants to America celebrated Thanksgiving though their version of pumpkin pies were probably nothing like they are today.
Native American tribes in the north-eastern part of America grew squash and pumpkins, and ate them after roasting or boiling them. The early European settlers to America though not particularly impressed with the pumpkin, learnt to cook with them under duress and it is thought that the precursor to the first pumpkin pie was made without a crust because they had no ovens in those days. What the probably did was to stew pumpkins or fill a hollowed out shell with milk, honey and spices, and then bake it in hot ashes.
The name pumpkin has its origins in the Greek word "pepon which means “large melon”. This slowly got corrupted in French to "pompon” and then “pumpion/ pompion” in English and later become the pumpkin as we know it now.
We at “We Knead To Bake” decided to celebrate the spirit of the season and the pumpkin by making some Spiced Pumpkin Bread Rolls. These very attractive rolls not only look like pumpkins but also incorporate some pumpkin purée as one of the ingredients. If you’re looking for a bread to serve at Thanksgiving this is the perfect one. Actually, it’s pretty good to serve at any time of the year.
I’ve never seen canned pumpkin of any sort here in India. This is probably because fresh pumpkin is available in our markets all year round, and Indians traditionally have a preference for using fresh vegetables and fruit whenever possible. While it may be a little more work than opening a can, I would suggest making one’s own purée for the best taste and flavour.
I prefer my bread a little less on the sweeter side so if you would like sweeter rolls, replace the 2 tbsp of honey in the recipe below with 1/8 to 1/4 cup of sugar depending on how sweet you want them. If you don’t use eggs just leave the egg out. You can use canned pumpkin purée if you find that easier but I’d pick freshly made purée every time for the taste. You can also leave out the spices if you don’t want them in your rolls.
To make pumpkin purée from scratch, peel the pumpkin and clean out the middle, then cut it into cubes. Steam cook the pumpkin till soft, drain any liquid that might have collected and let it cool. Then blend it to a fine paste. Mashing it will not give you the fine texture of a purée.
If by some chance you have a pale coloured pumpkin, you can add a pinch of turmeric to your pumpkin while steam cooking it to give your purée a deeper colour.
These rolls are very easy to make, and all you need are a pair of scissors to shape the dough into pumpkins. If you divide the dough into six portions you will have slightly larger rolls. I divided the dough into 8 for slightly smaller rolls.
Spiced Pumpkin Bread Rolls.
(Adapted from Beyond Kimchee)
- use a processor to knead my dough, but you may use your kitchen mixer or do it by hand. Pour the warm milk into a bowl. Add the honey and yeast and mix well and leave aside for about 5 minutes until the mixture is starting to look “frothy”. You don’t have to do this with instant yeast and can add it directly, but I do just to make sure my yeast is still active.
- Put the flour, the salt and the spice powders into the processor bowl and run a couple of times to mix them well. Then add the yeast mixture, the pumpkin purée, the melted butter and the egg to the processor bowl.
- Knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough that will be somewhat sticky. It should pull from the side of the bowl. Add a little more flour (or milk) if required, to obtain this consistency of dough.
- Turn the dough out to a wooden board dusted with a little flour and knead by hand for a minute. Shape it into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning it around to coat it well. Loosely cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until double in volume.
- Deflate the risen dough gently to remove large pockets of air and divide it into about 8 (or 10 for smaller rolls) equal sized portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Flatten each ball slightly and using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors make 8 cuts at equal distance from each other, from the edge of the ball towards the centre but leaving the centre uncut – like a flower.
- Place the dough “flowers” 2” apart on a lightly oiled or parchment lined baking sheet. Loosely cover and let them rise for about 45 minutes. Use your fore finger or the round end of a wooden spoon (dip it in a little oil or flour so the dough doesn’t stick to it) and poke a deep hole in the centre of each “flower” for the pecan “stem”. Brush them with milk (or egg wash if you use it).
- Bake the rolls at 180C (350F) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Take them out of the oven and brush the rolls with melted butter or a little honey diluted with water for a shine, if you like that.
- Let them cool and then place a sliced pecan piece for the “stem”into the indentation of each roll. You can also celery stalks, chives or the stalks of small bell peppers for the “stems”.