I really feel like I’m just going out on a limb with this here post. I mean, pumpkin cinnamon rolls? They just seem so…absurd. Immoderate. Decadent. We are still creeping out of a national recession. It is high election season. I have better things to do and think about. Like how I can get in one of those #bindersofwomen.

But, it’s the fall. It was a Saturday. I was cruising Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs, and came across a recipe for these. The recipe is actually from Baked Elements, one of the cookbooks from the the Red Hook bakery I’ve come to know and love on trips to Fairway, Ikea, Sunny’s, and The Good Fork. Photos of these called to me through the screen of my laptop and, against my better judgement, was compelled to get baking.

I happened to have my monthly co-op work shift last weekend so I was able to buy all the spices I needed (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon), good butter, replenish my flour stash, and get organic canned pumpkin. That’s right, I said canned pumpkin. You can definitely make these by roasting your own pumpkin but I will tell you right now I most certainly did not. Although it would be lovely and tasty if you did. The original recipe only calls for 2/3 c of pumpkin purée anyway, so, yeah.

My fellow blogger over at Smitten Kitchen tweaked the Baked recipe, and now I’ve gone and tweaked her recipe. I reduced the sugar in both the filling and icing; I did everything by hand instead of a stand mixer; lengthened the rising times; and increased the pumpkin. These are certainly tasty and decadent (everything you want in a cinnamon roll), but were the tiniest bit dry. And they are pumpkin cinnamon rolls—I wanted to taste more of the pumpkin than I did. So I think the perfect solution would be to increase the pumpkin quotient.

And while I have your attention…did you see the Food and Drink issue last weekend in the NYTimes? Read the article about Christopher Kimball by Alex Halberstadt. He’s so unabashedly old school. He would probably hate my blog. I love him.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Baked Elements (and Smitten Kitchen)
Yields 16 buns

Dough
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c whole milk, warm, but not hot
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 c (or nearly 1 c) pumpkin purée
1 large egg
Oil for coating rising bowl

Filling
3/4 c light or dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp milk or buttermilk
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
A few drops of vanilla extract

Make the dough:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and once melted, continue cooking over medium heat for a few additional minutes so that it browns. It will hiss and sizzle, and golden brown spots will form on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Combine the warmed milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After five minutes or so, it should be a bit foamy. If it’s not, you might have some bad (old) yeast and should start again with a newer packet.

If you have a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and spices in the mixer bowl. You can do this by hand just fine too, and can use a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 c (or 2/3 of the remaining) brown butter and stir to combine. Add the yeast-milk mixture, pumpkin, and egg and combine. If using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and run on low for five minutes. If by hand, get ready for a workout. Mix by hand for five minutes until the dough starts to come together.

Transfer the dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for at least one hour, or as much as two hours, in a draft-free place. It should nearly double in side. While it’s rising, line the bottom of two 9- or 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and butter the sides.

Assemble the buns:
Scoop the dough onto a well-floured surface, and flour the top of the dough well. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 16 x 11 inch rectangle. Brush the reserved melted butter over the dough. Stir together remaining filing ingredients and sprinkle mixture evenly over the dough. Starting with one of the longer edges, roll the dough into a tight spiral. It’s ok if some of the filling spills out of the ends a little.

Cut the cinnamon rolls with a serrated knife using practically no pressure whatsoever. Place the blade of the knife on the dough and gently saw your log with a back-and-forth motion into approx. 1-inch sections. Divide buns between the two prepared pans, sprinkling with any sugar that fell out. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for at least 45 minutes and up until 2 hours. You could, after this point, put them covered in the refrigerator and when you’re ready to bake them just take them out an hour before hand to warm up.

Fifteen minutes before you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350 degrees F and make the glaze. Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and drizzle in milk until you get the desired consistency: thick like icing (which is what I did) or thin enough to drizzle.

Remove the plastic and bake (un-glazed) for 25 minutes until puffed and golden and the smell of cinnamon and sugar and butter makes you dizzy and brings your neighbors knocking. Let cool before glazing, then dig in. By all means, you’ve earned it.

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