09 November 2009

Make a bread-baker out me

I didn't grow up around much bread baking. Of course, very few people in this country have baked daily loaf breads in the past 75 years. And that's one of the magical things about holidays -- we're willing to pull off kitchen tasks we'd never otherwise have the gusto to do.

And that's how something like a homemade roll can land on the Thanksgiving table. A couple of years ago when we hosted a Thanksgiving for neighborhood friends, some guests brought homemade rolls, finishing their rise when they arrived. And there was my sister-in-law's boyfriend who made rolls for a holiday meal once, too. And my friend Matt, who used to ask me cooking questions all the time when we worked together, is now a bread baker. Geez, I thought, I should get with the program and get over my bread-baking phobia.

Bread baking is something I'm trying to do more of, and I was so excited how easy this pumpkin roll recipe was. It made me wonder why I hadn't tackled yeast and flour before. (Here's where I should note that I recognize making pizza dough is bread baking, but it just never seemed that scary.)

Get the kids involved, or farm this task out to a friend or relative who wants to help the hostess. The pumpkin flavor in these is only very subtle, and mostly adds a nice color to them. I froze half of the batch I made after the first rise. Then, I thawed them on the counter and let them rise again. I found the thawed rolls tasted good, but the texture was not quite as good as the fresh ones.

I'd bake them all, even if you have a smaller crowd, though. They hold up for a day or two in a zip-top bag and would be perfect for your leftover turkey sandwiches.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Adapted from a Sunset recipe

1 1/2 cups warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
4-5 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a medium bowl, combine milk, yeast, sugar and salt. Let stand five minutes. Add egg and beat well. In another small bowl, combine pumpkin and shortening and mash with the back of fork until the shortening is broken into small pieces. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the milk and pumpkin mixtures. Attach the dough hook and on a low speed, begin mixing while adding flour, one cup at a time. Once the dough combines and pulls away from the side, stop adding flour. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about two minutes. Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours. To divide the dough, first cut into fourths. Then take each fourth, and cut into sixths. Work dough into balls and place on a baking sheet, just slightly touching. Brush tops with melted butter and allow to rise another 30 minutes.

Bake at preheated 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until tops are golden and rolls are baked through.

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