Friday, October 17, 2014

Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

I’m finally getting into the swing of October and the seasonal enjoyment of pumpkin.  It’s hard to believe it’s that time of the year but here we are.  The chill is in the air and the leaves are swirling at our feet.  I love the light at this time, bright and overcast mingling together, the fog horn bellowing the incoming rush of morning dew.

I do really love pumpkin desserts and pastries so this preparation comes easily and with pleasure.  I’ve been wanting to get my hands back to working with yeast so I’ve made some basic cinnamon rolls with an added layer of pumpkin that’s been sweetened and spiced.  It’s just enough to ease into the pumpkin season and add a note of fall to your brunch table.  It won’t be long before we’re assembling our favorite pumpkin pies, swooning with glee at the bounty of fall.

Bench notes:
- If you're leery of working with yeast, this is a pretty simple formulation and one that isn't likely to cause any panic.  The simple and most important rule to follow is to dissolve your yeast in liquid that is 110 - 115 degrees F.  It should feel very warm, not hot.  I usually just let my tap water run to its hottest temperature, measure out what I need and place a thermometer in the measuring cup.  I let it cool just a bit and when it reads 110 - 115 degrees, I whisk in the yeast and then a pinch of sugar.  (Yeast feeds on sugar but yeast activity may decrease if it comes into direct contact with sugar or salt, so dissolve the yeast in water first, then add the sugar.)   I then set it aside to proof for about 10 minutes while I assemble all the other ingredients.  By the time I'm set to work on the recipe, the yeast is foamy and ready to go.
- If you're not sure whether the dough is ready after the first rise, just press your index finger about 1 1/2" into the dough.  If the indentation stays, the dough has completed the first rise.
- After the first rise, the dough is "punched down" to release the carbon dioxide and even out the temperature.  But rather than punching, gently press the air out with your hands.
- To avoid adding any additional excess flour when shaping the dough, I like to roll it out on a silpat.  No need for any dusting of flour.
- If you're using a glass pyrex baking pan, check the rolls after about 20 - 25 minutes in the oven.  Glass conducts heat more efficiently than metal.
- I place the pan of rolls on a baking sheet before it goes into the oven to prevent the bottoms from getting too brown.
- Everything you wanted to know about working with yeast can be found at Red Star.
- Some more of my favorite delicious pastries for pumpkin mania:  Pumpkin Pear & Pecan Streusel CakePumpkin Pecan Madeleines, Pumpkin Pie Pecan Squares and Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Yeast Bread

Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 9 rolls

Yeast Dough
1/4 cup (2 oz) warm water (110 -115 degrees F; warm but not hot on your wrist)
1 packet active dry yeast
pinch sugar
3 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (4 oz) milk                                                                   
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla                                                                 
2 eggs
2 3/4 (13 3/4 oz) - 3 cups (15 oz) flour

Pumpkin Filling
15 oz can of unsweetened pumpkin puree                   
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (39 grams) dark brown sugar, packed                                                           
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon                
1/4 teaspoon ginger                                  
scant 1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pecan Streusel Filling
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup (2 1/2 oz) chopped toasted pecans                  
1 teaspoon cinnamon                   
zest of 1 medium orange
2 oz (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter

1/3 cup (40 g) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 teaspoons orange juice                  
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice             
few grains salt
For the yeast dough, place warm, not hot, water into a bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Whisk to combine and add a slight pinch of sugar.  Whisk and set aside while you gather and prepare the other ingredients.

Cut the butter into 1/2” pieces and place in a saucepan with the milk.  Heat the milk and butter together just until the butter melts.  Take off the heat and add the sugar, salt and vanilla.  Combine with the yeast mixture and whisk in the eggs.  Switch to a fork and stir in 2 3/4 cups of flour.  If necessary, keep adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. 

Place the dough on a work surface and knead until soft and elastic.  Grease a large bowl with oil and transfer the dough to the bowl.  Toss the dough over once to coat the top of it with oil.  Place a piece of plastic wrap across the top of the bowl and set in a warm place to double in size, about 1 hour.

For the pumpkin filling, whisk together all ingredients until thoroughly blended.  Chill until ready to assemble.

Prepare the streusel by combining the brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon and orange zest. Cut the butter into small pieces and work it into the nut mixture with your fingers until it's moist and crumbly.  Chill until ready to assemble.

Lightly grease a 9” square baking pan and line with a piece of parchment paper large enough to form an overhang on two sides.  Set aside.

When the dough has completed its first rise, gently press on it to deflate it.  Place on a work surface with a very light dusting of flour.  Roll the dough out evenly to an 12” x 18" rectangle.  Spread the pumpkin filling over the surface, leaving a 1 1/2” border along the top of the long side.  Sprinkle the pecan filling evenly over the pumpkin.  

Starting with the long side nearest you, gently lift the dough and fold it over about 1”.  Continue rolling up the pastry until you get to the end, doing your best to keep the sides of the roll even.  Pinch and seal the dough.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the roll into 9 pieces, each one about 2” wide.  Carefully place the slices cut side up in the prepared pan 3 per row, leaving some space between for the rolls to expand.  Set the pan aside in a warm spot to rise for an additional 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  

When the oven is ready, place the pan of rolls on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.  Set on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Gently lift the rolls out of the pan using the paper overhang to assist.  Cool completely. 

For the glaze, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and whisk in the milk, orange and lemon juice and a few grains of salt until smooth.  Drizzle over the top of the cooled rolls.

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