Buttery-sweet Pumpkin Molasses Dinner Rolls may become the new tradition at your Thanksgiving feast. As a bonus, they are an ideal vehicle for leftover turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Think of them for your next fall or winter Holiday potluck event.
My husband seems to always be the last one to sign up for his annual office Thanksgiving potluck. I’m a bit disappointed since the only items usually left for him to bring are pretty specific and boring; like bread or drinks. This year when he told me he signed up for bread, I decided to use some of the oodles of homemade pumpkin puree from my freezer and make pumpkin dinner rolls for him contribute. (Click here for a previous post on how to make Homemade Pumpkin Puree.)
Every bookshelf in every room of my home is filled with my cookbook collection, yet after a bit of research, a small handful of yeasted pumpkin bread recipes surfaced and only one was for rolls; but as a mere option in a bread recipe. Interestingly, from a trend sort of perspective, most of the cookbooks with yeasted pumpkin bread recipes were written in the 80s and 90s – well before the fairly recent pumpkin everything craze. Not one was from the 21st century. The oldest recipe I found was from a classic 60s Farm Journal Homemade Bread cookbook. I’m guessing farm ladies had to also do something with the kind of overflow of pumpkin puree that I now have.
No direct hits from my search. I was still looking for pumpkin rolls with the same warm, homey goodness of the quintessential Thanksgiving dinner rolls I make every year with milk, eggs, a bit of sugar and a decadent amount of butter both in the dough and brushed over the finished rolls.
In the end, I took bits of inspiration from the pages of the cookbooks I searched through then revisited my traditional dinner rolls to create dreamy soft harvest rolls. In addition to the sweet, squashy flavor and golden hue pumpkin adds, every ingredient in the rolls exists for a practical reason as well as to evoke a sense of tradition even though pumpkin rolls are not typically part of Thanksgiving…yet.
- Egg adds the richness of challah and builds on the faint pumpkin color.
- Butter echoes a brioche sensibility
- Warm spices conjure up a hint of seasonal pumpkin pie.
- Buttermilk adds a sourdough-ish twang and weakens the gluten to ensure a more tender crumb
- Molasses ensures earthy moistness and encourages a golden brown color. The idea to add molasses comes from Beth Hensperger’s wonderful Bread for All Seasons cookbook which has a recipe for what looks like an anadama kind of pumpkin bread.
The final recipe for homemade Pumpkin Molasses Rolls is well worth the effort. Tszujing the Thanksgiving menu also keeps your traditions from becoming stale. To make Thanksgiving cooking easier, an option that takes longer, but requires less work is to proof the dough only twice in the refrigerator. Follow the recipe below and let the dough rise the first time in the refrigerator (3-6 hours), then punch down and shape the rolls before letting them rise overnight in the refrigerator. They can be baked right before your feast for fresh from the oven joy.
Pumpkin Molasses Dinner Rolls
Makes 24 small dinner rolls
½ cup slightly warm buttermilk (105 – 110 degrees)
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 Tbs molasses
1 large egg
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
pinch each cardamom and nutmeg
3 – 3 ½ cups bread flour (hard wheat flour)
Egg Wash – 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs water
1 Tbs poppy seeds for decoration (optional)
- Bring all ingredients to room temperature before beginning recipe.
- In a large bowl mix buttermilk, yeast, pumpkin puree, butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg until smooth.
- Add 2 cups bread flour and mix until combined. Add additional flour ½ cup at a time, beating after each addition until a soft ball of dough is formed. You may end up not using all the flour or use a little bit more than suggested.
- Beat for an additional 5 minutes if using a standing mixer or 8-10 minutes if using a wooden spoon. Beat until dough is smooth, slightly tacky and doesn’t stick to side of bowl.
- In lightly buttered or oiled large bowl add dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until double in volume; about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
- Punch risen dough down, knead briefly, return to bowl and let rise again until double. (In a pinch the third rise can be skipped. The third rise makes a more tender crumb and texture)
- Punch dough down, knead briefly and use a bench scraper (or dull side of a knife) to divide into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a tight, smooth ball and place an inch apart on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. (Placing the dough balls on a non-stick whoopie pie pan works perfectly if you happen to have one or two) Cover loosely with plastic and let rise until not quite double, about 20-40 minutes.
- During third rise, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Before baking, lightly brush egg wash over each roll and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
- Bake rolls from 12-18 minutes until golden brown.
- For the decadent butter finish melt 2 Tbs butter and brush over baked warm rolls.