Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls
My feet barely stabilize my bumbling, energetic body as I dart around from one pen to the next. The velcrow flaps left carelessly unhinged, collect strands of hay and clumps of dirt. My prepubescent, shrill voice spews out nonsense as I try to make up my mind. My small brother trying to keep up, pulls at my arm, pushes me, or yells – whatever it takes to get my attention. He thinks he knows better. He’s found the best there is!
“This one!” I finally proclaim. My brother frowns; I ignored his suggestion. My brows lowers as the seriousness of the matter sets in. “No! Nevermind. I don’t like this one.” My feet carry me off again. My brother’s smile returns again and he begins to chase.
Pumpkins litter the ground and from our small stature, they seem to go on forever. Like children in a candy store my brother and I are overwhelmed with the amazing potential this field of large orange beasts has to offer. Excitement slowly fades to concern and concern slowly becomes despair. One turned pumpkin reveals a big dent, another has some gross black scar, a third one is cracked. My overly unstable, sugar-high, undeveloped emotions begin to induce panic. What if I can’t find the perfect pumpkin?
“Broder! Over here!” my brother proclaims with an adorable – and annoying at the same time – childly inflection and perfected pouty eyes. I drag my now upset body to my little brother as he tries to pick up a pumpkin nearly as big as he is. I smirk, thinking what a fool this young chap is. I go to lift the pumpkin with no avail. We look at each other and nod. We both try to pick it up, to look at the spot that is hiding from us. No luck. My father, not far behind, soon swipes up the ginormous gourd. My brother and I get a glimpse at the perfect underside and in unison, “THIS ONE DADDY!”
He places the pumpkin in the small red wagon he has been tasked with pulling. The large orange beast barely fits next to the three other perfect specimens my brother and I found earlier. With ‘hurry!’s and ‘are we there yet?’s we whisk our way home. Newspapers cover the table and our prizes our lined up. Mom and dad remind us the dangers of wielding a knife and to show we acknowledge the seriousness my brother and I pretend to have a sword fight. It is a ritual. Soon gargantuan, glowing, goofy faces sit by our front door, ready to scare off any daring trickers.
Today I still take much joy in pumpkin season. October to me is all about two things – halloween and pumpkins. While I use to find the biggest I could for carving, now I look for smaller varieties. My kitchen is filled with pie pumpkins and my recipe to-do list with pumpkin treats. And while I will still carve a pumpkin or two for the big day, my favorite ones are the ones I get to eat.
These cinnamon rolls are not far removed from their traditional variant as the pumpkin adds a subtle layer of creamy pumpkin flavor. The spices in the dough work well with the rich, spicy cinnamon swirl and pumpkin cream filling.
Cinnamon Rolls, like all yeast breads, require a little patience. The rising times should not be rushed – there are only two in this recipe – , ingredients should be weighed precisely and care taken with both the temperature of the liquid in which you are dissolving the yeast and of the room in which the dough is rising. Each, while seeming tedious, will give you incredible, consistent results when followed to a t; if ignored you will end up with a hockey puck. This recipe calls for bread flour – which I suggest using if you have it – but you can substitute all purpose if that is all you have.
Pumpkin Puree - This recipe calls for making pumpkin puree from scratch. To do this I suggest buying a pie pumpkin. They are much smaller than the jack-o-lantern variety and have a fuller, sweeter flavor.
To make the puree, cut the pie pumpkin in half and scoop out all the seeds and stringy stuff. Remove the stem and place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in an oven preheated at 375°F and roast for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick easily pierces the skin. Juices will begin to run form the pumpkin and portions may sag. Scoop the meat from the skin and place in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Store extra in the refrigerator. You should only need one pie pumpkin for this recipe.
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm (110-115°F) whole milk, scalded and cooled
- 3 ounces granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cardamom
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 eggs (at room temp)
- 1 lb 6 ounces bread flour
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 4 ounces pumpkin puree - see the above note on how to make pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp.
- 1 ounce unsalted butter, at room temp.
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 ounces pumpkin puree
- 4 ounces sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 4 ounces walnuts, optional
- 4 ounces unsalted buter, at room temp.
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- Prepare the Dough - Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk (be sure it is between 110 and 115). Add the sugar, spices, eggs and flour and mix until just combined.
- Knead the Dough - Add the salt, melted butter and pumpkin puree and knead for about 6 minutes. The dough should be smooth, elastic and quite sticky.
- Fermentation/Rising - Place the dough in a buttered bowl and cover loosely with a towel. Set the bowl in a warm place (ideally around 80°F) and let rise until doubled in volume about 2 hours.
- Punch Down the Dough - Flatten the dough in the bowl until most of the air is released. Using your hands gently knead the dough in on itself for a few seconds.
- Bench Proofing - Let the dough rest, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling it out. While the dough rests you can prepare the filling and cinnamon sugar mix.
- Filling - Beat the cream and butter until they are smooth and mixed together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until the mixture is smooth. Set aside. For the cinnamon sugar mix, mix both together in a bowl.
- Shaping - Roll the dough out on a lightly flowered surface until it is 9 inches by 18 inches, with the long side facing you. This will take some patiences as the dough will want to pull in on itself. Spread the filling over the dough leaving a one inch strip bare on the bottom closest to you. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mix on top of the filling again leaving the one inch strip. Add the walnuts if you are adding them.
- Shaping - Starting at the end farthest from you, roll the dough tightly together pulling towards you. Using a very sharp, slender knife (I use a sharpen pastry scraper) mark and cut the roll into 12 equal portions. To ensure equal portions mark the center of the roll, then the center of each half. You will now have four quarters that can be divided into three rolls. (Because of the filling and cinnamon sugar mix, this step is going to be very messy - just a warning.)
- Panning - Line an 11x17 inch shallow baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the cut rolls in 4 rows of 3. Tuck the end piece of dough under the roll so it does not unroll as it rises and bakes.
- Final Proofing - Place the rolls, covered, in a warm place (ideally 80°F) and let rise until just under doubled in volume about 1 hour - the rolls will expand into each other and they should be touching before you bake. Preheat the oven to 410°F.
- Baking - Place the baking sheet in another baking sheet - this will keep the bottom of the rolls from browning too much - and place in a preheated oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Mine baked for 13.5 minutes.
- Cooling/Icing - Prepare the icing by mixing the butter, sugar and vanilla together until it comes together. Add the hot water and mix until smooth. The consistency should not be runny but a little thinner than typical buttercream frosting. Spread the icing over the warm cinnamon rolls.
What’s your favorite type of cinnamon rolls? Do you have a favorite add-in?