Am I posting this recipe too late? Does the desire for all things pumpkin evaporate the moment one takes the last bite of pie on Thanksgiving?
Not for me. I made three batches of these rolls, served one on Thanksgiving and froze the other two. Yes, three batches. Regardless of the season, this bread is delicious, versatile, easy to prepare and can be made well in advance. One of those surplus batches will undoubtedly be served at Christmas dinner or perhaps used for a strata or French toast on Christmas morning. Furthermore, other than the gorgeous hue, these rolls are not especially pumpkin-y. As Stella Parks notes in her original recipe, pumpkin on its own just doesn’t have a lot of flavor. What we think of as the flavor of pumpkin has more to do with added sugar and spice.
So, don’t expect a sweet, super dense, cake-like pumpkin bread here. This is basically a souped-up white bread with a subtle earthiness and a light, pillowy-soft crumb. When shaped into a loaf rather than rolls, it will make awesome sandwich bread.
There is two caveats. First, you absolutely need a food processor to make this bread. The reason is you need the power of the food processor to transform the dense and dry ingredients into a pliable dough in a relatively short amount of time. Parks recommends letting the processor run for 75 seconds, but my processor needed two full minutes to hit the mark. Therefore, your mileage may vary depending on how powerful your particular processor is. Second, this recipe requires instant dry yeast, such as SAF. I mention this because I had order some as I could not find it in the grocery store.
This might seem like an inconvenience, but it’s so worth it. I make yeast bread about three or four times a year and was always unsatisfied with the results. The rise was never what it should have been and when baked, it never yielded that intoxicating aroma. I now know why – I was using what was likely unstable, half-dead active dry yeast. Even a freshly opened jar of active dry yeast may be on its last legs. There is no such worry with instant yeast. It just works. It rises beautifully and the bread smells as heavenly as it should when it bakes.
When making the dough, the best way to tell if it is ready is to tear off a golf-ball sized piece and stretch it in all directions. When worked enough, you can gently stretch the dough in all directions without tearing and the center will be thin enough that light passes through it. In bread making, this is known as the window pane test.
As for shaping the dough, in the recipe linked above, you can see the guide on shaping the dough into a loaf, but I opted for rolls. After cutting the dough into individual pieces, place one on an unfloured surface such as a cutting board. Cup your hand around it with your fingers flat against the board and move the dough in a quick circular motion. The dough ball will become smooth and taut. Lift the ball and look at the bottom. As you can see in the video, I check it once and see a fairly big seam and so I roll it for a few seconds longer until there is barely a seam at all. That piece is then ready for the pan. Repeat for the remaining pieces of dough.
Once you shape your dough into rolls or a loaf, it is ready for a second hands-off proof for a couple hours. Then, it is ready to bake in a 350°F oven for 35 minutes for rolls to 45 minutes for a loaf. For both, you’re looking for an internal temperature of 205°F Parks bakes her rolls in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. If you have one, I highly recommend using it as it has the added bonus of retaining heat for a long time. That way, you can bake your rolls a couple hours before you plan to serve and they will still be warm when you’re ready for them. However, I don’t have a 10-inch cast iron skillet and used a 9-inch aluminum cake pan. Same baking time and the results were delightful.
As tempting as it may be to dig into the rolls as soon as they emerge from the oven, you need to let them cool. The crumb of freshly baked bread is dense and gummy and it’s only through cooling that its fluffy texture emerges. So, let the rolls cool for an hour or two before you tear into them. Your patience will be rewarded.
Savory Pumpkin Bread
A savory, soft, pillowy bread that is basically white bread in disguise. With a gorgeous hue, a subtle earthiness and a substantial crumb, it's surprisingly simple to make and a wonderful addition to any meal.
- 16 ounces bread flour about 3 1/2 cups, spooned; 455g
- 2 1/4 teaspoons 9g Diamond Crystal kosher salt 9g; t; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 1/4 ounce instant dry yeast such as SAF (about 2 teaspoons; 7g yeast); not RapidRise or active dry
- 12 ounces pumpkin purée canned or homemade (about 1 1/2 cups; 340g)
- 2 ounces pure maple syrup a shy 1/4 cup; 55g
- 2 ounces unsalted butter melted (about 4 tablespoons; 55g), or 1 1/2 ounces neutral oil or roasted pumpkin seed oil (about 3 tablespoons; 42g)
Making the Dough: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the bread flour, salt, and instant yeast together to combine. Add pumpkin purée, maple syrup, and melted butter (or oil), and process until the dough comes together in a smooth, pliable ball; the timing can vary depending on the size and power of a given food processor, but expect about 75 seconds from start to finish. To test the dough, tear off a small piece and stretch gently in all directions; when the dough is ready, it can be pulled into a thin, translucent sheet.
Proofing the Dough: Lightly grease a medium bowl, then add the dough. Cover and proof at room temperature until doubled in bulk. This will take about 2 hours at around 72°F; the process will move faster at warmer temperatures, and slower when it is cool. To test the dough, poke it gently with a flour-dusted fingertip; when the dough is ready, it will retain a shallow impression that springs back after a few minutes. If the dough is firm and springs back right away, continue proofing until the dough retains a shallow impression.
For dinner rolls, make and proof the dough as directed, then divide into approximately 12 even pieces (approximately 2 1/2 ounces or 70g each). Cup each portion of dough beneath your hand and an unfloured work surface, pinning it with your fingertips on one side and the heel of your palm on the other. Roll the dough around in quick, circular motions until the dough forms a ball, then continue until the dough is pulled smooth in a tight skin, with only a tiny seam along the bottom. If the seam is large or irregular, continue rounding until the bottom is nearly smooth.
Arrange portions in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or a foil lined cake pan, then cover and proof as before. The dough will be ready when it's puffy and light, and risen about 2 inches above the rim of the pan. This will take about 2 hours at around 72°F; the process will move faster at warmer temperatures, and slower when it is cool; the dough's readiness can be tested as before. Near the end of this period, adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat to 350°F.
For a loaf: Turn the dough onto a work surface with just the barest sprinkling of flour, and knead for a few seconds to deflate; this creates a more uniform crumb in the loaf by eliminating large pockets of air. Pat the dough into a 7-inch square, and form into a tight log, sealing the dough together with your heel. Nestle into a lightly greased loaf pan, seam side down, then cover and proof as before.
To bake: When the dough is ready, uncover and bake until well-risen, golden brown, and hollow sounding when thumped; about 35 minutes for rolls and 45 minutes for loaves, or to an internal temperature of approximately 205°F. Immediately turn the rolls or loaf out onto a wire rack, and cool completely before slicing. The loaf will keep up to a week at room temperature in a bread box or paper bag.
To freeze: when rolls or loaf is completely cool, wrap well in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil and then seal in a plastic bag. To thaw, allow to come to room temperature on the counter the night before you plan on serving.
To reheat: places rolls or loaf on a foiled-lined sheet in a 350°F oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.