With fall in full swing, and Halloween and Samhain only a day away, it’s time to break out the pumpkin spice buns. Now, I’ve made plenty of sweet breads on the blog before ( pumpkin chocolate babka, cinnamon walnut challah, and orange and cardamom sweet rolls to name a few), most of which are heavily spiced and heavily festive. This one is no exception. I like what I like, okay?
This recipe, however, is the first on the blog to feature the look, technique, and texture of a classic cinnamon roll (think Cinnabon). While it’s nothing fancy, it is something that can be tricky to get just right, especially when it comes to baking and proofing times. So I’ve laid out a few visual cues in the recipe directions that will give you a more accurate indication of when things are ready to go. Bake time and temperature will rely heavily on the type of baking container you’re using, so don’t take that lightly. Splitting the dough between two 8 inch rounds will drastically decrease bake time and can become dry and overbaked very easily. Watch out. If you’re used to baking sweet rolls/buns in 8 or 9 inch rounds, but decided to go for the 9×13 like I did here… be prepared to wait. Don’t panic if it’s been over 30 minutes and the middle buns are still raw.
As the title suggests, I’ve got a pretty loaded filling in these buns. I pitted and finely diced about a cup of dates (1 cup post dicing), and the same for walnuts. Now, obviously, if you have allergy restrictions, omit what you must. BUT. If you are contemplating omitting the dates and nuts simply because you think they’ll be “too much” or because you’re not a huge fan of either…. I beg you to at least try it. On one half of the dough. At least. Those nuts add the most fantastic crunch, and the dates that sit on the bottom of the pan caramelize into the most beautiful gooey bits.
Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns with Date and Walnut Filling
For the Dough:
- 4 c. all purpose white flour
- 1/3 c. white or brown sugar
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 1 T active dry yeast
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
- 1 1/2 c. evaporated milk, lukewarm
- 1 t. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 t. ground ginger
- 1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
For the Filling:
- 1/3 c. butter, almost melted
- 1 c. brown sugar
- about 1 T ground cinnamon
- 1 c. pitted, finely chopped dates
- 1 c. finely chopped walnuts
- 1/4 c. milk
- 1/2 c. butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 lb confectioner’s sugar
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- 2-5 T heavy cream (according to preference)
To make the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer or bread machine, add lukewarm evaporated milk (or just a small portion of it, and add the rest later) and 1 T yeast. Let rest ten minutes for yeast to bloom. When the mixture is foamy and active, add all dry ingredients and mix until shaggy. Then add vegetable oil and pumpkin puree and knead until well combined. Let rest 10-20 minutes, then knead again until smooth and elastic. Dough should be very soft, but only slightly sticky. Cover and let rise 30-60 minutes or until double.
Liberally flour a large working surface. Punch down dough and turn out onto floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 16×20 inches.
To shape and bake:
Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter over the rolled dough. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, dates, and walnuts, then spread the mixture evenly onto the dough sheet, making sure you go all the way to each edge. Starting from the side farthest from you, gently roll the dough sheet into a large log. Use a knife to cut the dough log in half, and then make 8-10 rolls, cutting every 2-3 inches. Lightly grease a large baking dish, or two 8-9 inch rounds, and arrange buns so that they’re just touching. Cover and let rise again for 20-30 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 375 F.
Once rolls are risen slightly, not yet doubled, uncover rolls and place in oven. For two 8-9 inch rounds, bake 20-25 minutes or until the center rolls reads 190 F on a digital thermometer. For one large baking dish, bake for twenty minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 F. Bake another 15-20 minutes or until center rolls read 190 F on a digital thermometer. Once fully baked, remove from oven and let cool at least 20 minutes.
For Vanilla Buttercream:
In a large clean bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter and confectioner’s sugar. Whisk until a very thick, but smooth mixture is achieved. Add vanilla and two tablespoons of heavy cream. Whisk vigorously until the mixture has grown in volume and become lighter in texture. If desired, add more cream and continue whisking for a very light, soft and melt-y frosting. For a thicker frosting, leave as is.
When buns are cooled enough to handle, spread icing over the tops (get in all of the nooks and crannies to seal in moisture), and reserve any leftovers for dipping. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or on the counter top for up to three days.