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Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

by Flo Braker

Rich rolls, piping hot from the oven, either spread with butter or soaked with gravy, is just as much a part of a home- cooked Thanksgiving dinner as cranberry sauce and stuffing. Each year at this time, the question I ask myself is whether to shape my egg-rich dough into crescents, cloverleafs, rosettes, snails, or simply pan rolls.

But after sampling rolls recently with a vegetable puree mixed into the dough, I felt it was time to showcase something different for this holiday meal. I tested recipes using pumpkin because I felt that baking with the pumpkin, that wholesome member of the squash family, need not stop with pies. Rolls with canned pumkin puree mixed into a rich yeast dough, exhibit the pumpkin's versatility, adding its sweet delicate flavor and golden orange color.

When I use a fresh vegetable puree for these rolls, I prefer the banana squash since fresh pumpkin puree contains more liquid than flavor. For this change, merely substitute banana squash for the pumpkin puree in the recipe.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
makes about 32 rolls
Meltingly tender, these delicious vegetable-flavored dinner rolls are a wonderful addition to any Thanksgiving feast.

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup (110 degrees) water
3/4 cup milk, scalded and cooled
1 cup pumpkin puree, canned
1/3 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water. Set aside for 10 minutes to proof and soften. In a large bowl, combine the milk, the pumpkin puree, sugar, and butter. Add the dissolved yeast to the mixture, and with an electric mixer (preferably a heavy-duty one), beat in about 2 cups flour, the salt and cayenne. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Gradually add the remaining flour until the dough is stiff enough to knead.

On a lightly floured surface, knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, turn dough in the bowl to coat top with some of the fat to keep the dough's surface moist and soft. Cover top of bowl with plastic, then a cloth towel. Set in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Gently punch dough down. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough and roll each half into a long rope, about 16 inches long. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Shape each piece into a ball on the work surface or between the palms of your hands. Transfer the rolls to lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the rolls with flour, cover lightly with plastic wrap. Set aside and let the rolls rise until light and puffy, almost double in bulk.

Adjust rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, or until light golden. Serve piping hot.

Freezing Tip: Place a plastic or waxed-paper lined baking sheet in the freezer at least 15 minutes. Shape dough into balls, and and place them on the cold baking sheet. Freeze, uncovered. Place frozen balls into a heavy plastic freezer bag, and freeze up to 2 weeks. To bake, remove dough from freezer, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours. Bake as directed.

Squash Dinner Rolls
Banana Squash Puree: Place 1 1/2 pound portion of banana squash on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheat 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven, and cool. Remove the skin by slipping a paring knife between the skin and the flesh. Cut the flesh into small pieces, and place them in a food processor bowl. Process with short on/off burst until it is smooth, about 30 seconds. For a finer, smoother texture pruee, grind the squash flesh, a few pieces at a time, in a food mill. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Makes about 2 cups.

Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.

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