Okay. Before you dive right in here, something to confess: I made this recipe more than the one time that I'm showcasing here. Wait, wait. Correction. The first time I attempted these rolls, I went through the first half of the recipe three times only to have my dough fail to rise, all three times, and rolls that came out in a sticky, gooey, unappetizing blob. I know. Tough times.
That is to say, yeast-based doughs can be tricky. A lot of factors can weigh in, including both things you can control and things you can't. So while I certainly don't will you fail and in fact am quite positive you will not, don't slump around like I did if you do. There are always other weekends and other recipes and, when the time is right, returning back to the one that had you feeling defeated in the first place.
The second time I took a stab at these rolls, I followed the instructions more meticulously than I have followed anything in my entire life. (I've always been one for a little pinch of that and the hey-why-not attitude. When you're attempting to master a recipe, there's not a whole lot of room for anything other than exact science, which baking practically is.) AND GUESS WHAT: they came out FANTASTIC. Better than fantastic. I believe I walked around all weekend, biting into one here and there and announcing, "This is the best thing I've ever made!" Several weeks later, still true.
I admit I made the second batch hoping to deliver a superb result worthy of bringing to the office. Having made them on a Saturday, I admit they never made it past our front door, and if anyone in the outside world had been given a chance to taste test them, they would understand why I am not ashamed of that fact.
SO. Now that I felt a little gutsy, I decided that I had to make these for someone other than cute Colin and I. (And, yes, Seymour, who as it turns out will eat anything in the bread/baked good department. Great.) Having started a small new tradition last year of birthday brunch for my mom, I thought this would be the perfect occasion to display my new pumpkin-y yeast-y roll-y talents.
For this recipe, you'll need:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, to be divided
1/2 cup of milk (Okay, crucial bit of information here. It's best to know in advance when you're going to make these rolls. Why? Because the best way to achieve the right milk temperature so as not to kill your yeast is to pour it several hours before you plan to bake and just leave it on the counter. If you're feeling a little daring, maybe on top of the oven so it becomes slightly warm but not hot.)
One 7 gram packet of active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling your dough
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 large egg
Canola oil or spray for rising bowl
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Melt your butter down until it is liquified. This is best done on a stovetop in a small pan, but microwaving works, too. In a small bowl, combine your warm milk and yeast and set aside for about five minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (what I also admit I find to be a crucial step here), combine your flour, sugars, salt and spices with the whisk attachment. It will smell amazing in about three seconds. Add 1/4 cup of your melted butter (which should you leave you about 2 tablespoons left; keep that for later) and continue to stir. Add your yeast and milk mixture, pumpkin puree and egg. At this point, swap out your whisk for the dough hook attachment and stir on low for five minutes.
At about five minutes, you should notice your dough coming together in a more compact but loose-ish ball shape. Scrape your dough into a well-coated bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour. (Sticking the bowl in your oven, which is off of course, is a great place for this.) While it's rising, line two 9-inch pans (round or square both work) with parchment paper while also buttering the sides of your pans. Whisk together the filling for your rolls (sugars, salt and cinnamon) in a small bowl and set aside.
Now don't come back to your dough expecting it to have gotten huge. It will have puffed up slightly but definitely not an I Love Lucy moment, for sure. On a clean surface, lay down a good amount of flour (don't forget to also flour your hands and rolling pin) because this dough is very, very soft and sticky. Flouring the top of the dough as well, roll out into a rough rectangle shape, about 16x11-inches and about 1/4 inch thick. Brush your remaining butter over the surface of they dough and sprinkle (generously, now, generously) your dough with the cinnamon-sugar filling. Does it seem like too much? Do you have some left over? Nonsense. Keep going until that bowl is empty.
And the fun part: rolling! Starting on the longer side, roll your down together into a tight spiral. You may have some filling spilling out here and there, but that's okay. You can scoop it up later and sprinkle it on top.
Once you've got your dough rolled, using a serrated knife, gently (as in using zero to the power of zero pressure, so you don't crush them) saw your rolls into 1-inch slices, arranging side by side in your prepared pans. Repeat until you've got all your rolls cut, which should come out to be between 16 and 18 depending on your cutting generosity. Cover your pans with plastic wrap, toss them back into the (off) oven and let rise for another 45 minutes.
When you're ready to bake (FINALLY), remove the rising rolls from the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. (And this point, you could also consider making a glaze or icing but I figured I'd skip it so the real pumpkin flavor could shine through. Still, I'm a sucker for a good sugary drizzle, so no judgement here should you go that route.)
Bake your rolls for 22-25 minutes or until they've puffed up and gone all pretty golden-orangey and the whole house starts to smell INSANE. Seriously, when they're out of the oven, wait as long as you can stand it and have two. Such a process, you've earned it. Sorry, did I say two? I meant as many as you want. Maybe four. Who's counting?