Eating freshly baked bread is one of life’s joys. When my daughters moved away, my recipe for Pumpkin Rolls was one of the few they requested from me. The recipe below makes delicious dinner rolls and is a great addition to your Thanksgiving table. It’s also a wonderful way to get non-squash/pumpkin lovers to eat the nutritious vegetable.
1 scant tablespoon yeast (or 1 package yeast)
1/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk (whole, 2%, skim, or soy)
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin or winter squash (If using a small commercial can of pumpkin, buy plain pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling. Use the entire can even though it’ll be a little more than a cup).
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine (butter tastes better!)
2 cups whole wheat flout
2-3 cups unbleached white flour
Oven temperature: 400 degrees
Makes 12 dinner rolls, 1 large loaf, or 2 small loaves
Mix yeast, warm water, and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar in a large bowl. Set aside for 10-20 minutes so the yeast can “proof.” The yeast mixture will look like a foamy, tan mass when it’s ready.
While the yeast is “proofing,” place the milk and butter in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until the butter has melted (or microwave). Once the butter has melted, cool slightly (you should be able to touch the milk and butter mixture with a finger and it should be warm, but not hot) and add to the yeast. Add the cooked pumpkin or squash, the brown sugar, and salt to the yeast and milk, then stir until blended.
Add the 2 cups whole wheat flour, and stir. The mixture should be getting thick. Now add the unbleached, white flour one cup at a time – the dough should get so thick you’ll eventually need to give up the spoon and will have to knead, by hand, the rest of the flour in. Depending on the flour, you might not use it all or you may need a few more tablespoons to get firm dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding additional flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. As you knead, you’ll feel the dough taking on an “elastic” quality – this is the gluten strands developing. I like to knead yeast breads in the bowl I’ve mixed them in – it contains the flour mess and I don’t have to clean up the countertop or table afterwards.
Once kneaded, round the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl that is at least twice as big as the dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise. After an hour, punch the dough down, re-round into a ball, and let rise again for 40 minutes or so. Once it’s grown to about double in size again, push down, knead gently for a minute or so, and then set aside for five minutes so the dough can “rest.” Letting the dough rest allows the gluten to relax and makes shaping rolls or loaves easier.
At this stage, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Butter or oil your baking pans. I suggest a 9×11 cake pan for rolls, one large loaf pan, or two small loaf pans. This bread also makes a lovely, free-form round loaf that can be cooked on a cookie sheet.
The bread dough is now ready to shape into a dozen rolls, 1 large loaf, or 2 small loaves. After shaping the dough and placing it in a pan, cover and let rise 30 – 40 minutes. The shaped dough should be about doubled in size; if your kitchen is warm, it may rise faster than the 30 minutes. When finished rising, place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. You can check for “doneness” by tapping on the top of the bread – if it gives off a “hollow” sound, it’s ready.
Take the rolls or loaves out of the pans and cool on a rack; let them cool before cutting. It’s very tempting to eat the bread as soon as it comes out of the oven but, if the bread’s still hot, it won’t slice well.
Note: This recipe doubles or triples easily. Also, once baked, the rolls freeze well for later use.