Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls for Thanksgiving

Wouldn't it be great if the people you care about most could be rolling in the dough rather than off a "fiscal cliff"?  If you don't have a trust fund at your disposal, or a winning lottery ticket in your hand, you can still roll with this dough. And taste the abundance that underscores our Thanksgiving holiday.

When I was working on I Love Cinnamon Rolls and trying to come up with variations on a delicious theme, I had two inspirations for these rolls.

The first were the "crown" pastries baked at Graeter's in Cincinnati, Ohio.  They're a deconstructed sweet roll made by lining a muffin cup with yeast dough, then adding a sweet filling. They look somewhat like cupcakes.

The second came from my mother's pumpkin pie topped with cinnamon pecan streusel which I featured in All-American Desserts.

And voila--Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Crowns.

Although these rolls are perfect for Thanksgiving, don't think you have to restrict them to one weekend a year. They're delicious any time you want something soft, sweet, spicy, and comforting -- like, maybe, every day?

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Crowns

Rise and shine for a cold weather brunch dish that makes you happy! You will have some leftover pumpkin filling with this, but you can pour it into a buttered baking dish and bake it along with the rolls until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Bake these in batches, and nibble as you go.

Makes 36

First, make the dough. You can make this up to 2 days ahead of when you want to bake.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Roll Dough
The addition of whole wheat flour gives these rolls a slight more textured, nutty flavor. Let the dough sit for 30 minutes after mixing, as the whole wheat flour takes longer to absorb liquids. Vital wheat gluten or whole grain dough improver can be found in the baking section of better grocery stores (Bob’s Red Mill) or online at places like King Arthur 

3/4 cup whole milk
¼ cup honey or agave nectar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten or whole grain dough improver
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or bread machine yeast

1. In a 4-cup measuring cup, combine the water, honey, vegetable oil, and salt. Microwave on High  for 1 minute or until warm. Whisk in the eggs.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment , place the flour and yeast. Add the liquid ingredients. Mix on low speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time, until the dough forms a soft ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 to 6 minutes. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, if you like, to let the whole grains absorb the liquid.

3. Remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook. With the mixer on low, start kneading the dough with the dough hook.  Sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour, every minute or so, to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl. When the dough is smooth, not sticky, and springs back when you press it with your finger, you’ve kneaded enough (about 3 to 5 minutes). Place the dough in a large, oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place at room temperature (about 70 to 75 °F) for 45 to 60 minutes or until it has almost doubled.

4.  Then, proceed. 

Pan Sauce:
Cooking spray

Pumpkin Filling:
1 (15-ounce) pumpkin puree (not pie filling)            
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk           
1 large egg   
Cinnamon Pecan Streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

5. For the pan sauce, spray  6 (6 cup) muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.

6. For the filling, whisk the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk and egg together until smooth. Set aside.

7. For the streusel, combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, salt, and pecans in a medium bowl. Work in the butter with a fork or your fingers until the mixture forms crumbs. Set aside.

8. Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Cut the dough into fourths.  Roll each fourth to a 9-inch  square. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares. Arrange each square in a prepared muffin tin. 

The Method Is the Same, the Filling Is Different.  Sweet Cheese and Cinnamon Streusel

Place 1 tablespoon pumpkin (or sweet cheese as in the photo) filling and 2 teaspoons streusel in each dough-lined muffin cup. Cover with tea towels and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 45 to 60 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

9. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the crust has lightly browned and the filling is firm. 

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