Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Summer is officially over and that means ripe pumpkins are on the vine, ready for picking. Now, more than ever, pumpkin season means pumpkin spice treats of all kinds. From the obvious, like cakes, cookies and frothy coffee drinks, to the strange, think pumpkin spiced kale chips, French pumpkin pie spiced vodka, or pumpkin tortilla chips, pumpkin is everywhere and in everything. Pumpkin lovers everywhere can rejoice now that the season is in full swing.

We’re celebrating the start of pumpkin season by sharing these homey, America’s Test Kitchen-inspired, brown butter pumpkin cinnamon rolls. It gets its hearty, nutty texture from a mix of toasted wheat germ, whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. The dough, which is essentially a biscuit, produces a soft yet dense roll that’s full of great flavor and substantial texture.

This pumpkin roll recipe was adapted late last fall and we decided to wait for the next season to post it with the idea of getting an earlier start. We’re hitting the goal in a mad dash to get posts written before we leave for Paris. On top of a multitude of summer road trips, the last few weeks have been a blur with a baking gig that called for 500 mini bourbon pecan pies, followed by another gig two weeks later that called for 500 bourbon blondies and rye brownies. All of that was punctuated with the catering of Steve’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in between the baking gigs. The party included a 1,600 mile roundtrip roadtrip (and lots of help from dear friends and family). We’re ready for a break and by the time you read this, we’ll be roaming the streets of Paris in search of our next treat!

The recipe below includes one of our all-time seasonal favorites, pumpkin butter. With the ease of opening a can of pumpkin puree, this is one to make at home. But if you’re in a pinch, Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter is fantastic and well priced. It’s worth stocking up if you can find it. Toasted nuts add an earthy finishing touch of crunch. And while the rolls look a little craggy coming out of the oven, that dimpled surface makes for a perfect canvas for the sweet drizzle of icing that completes the dish.

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Brown Butter Pumpkin Rolls

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for pan
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin butter (homemade* or store bought [Trader Joe’s makes a great pumpkin butter])
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans

Biscuit Dough

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and browned
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
  • 1 1⁄2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for work surface (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1⁄4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1⁄4 cups kefir, yogurt, or buttermilk


  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar (4 ounces)


Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat to 425 degrees.

Pour 1 tablespoon melted butter in 9-inch nonstick cake pan; brush to coat pan.

Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

To make biscuit dough:

Whisk toasted wheat germ, flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.

Whisk kefir and 4 tablespoons melted butter in measuring cup or small bowl.

Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed (dough will look very shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy.

Pat dough with hands into 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Spread the pumpkin butter evenly over the dough; sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans. Sprinkle evenly with filling, leaving 1/2-inch border of plain dough around edges. Press filling firmly into dough. Starting at long side, roll dough, pressing lightly, to form a tight log. Pinch seam to seal. Roll log seam-side down and cut evenly into eight pieces. With hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal open edges and keep filling in place.

Arrange buns in buttered cake pan. Brush with 2 tablespoons remaining melted butter. Bake until edges are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes.

Use metal spatula to loosen buns from pan; without separating, slide buns out of pan onto greased cooling rack.

Cool about 5 minutes before icing.

To make icing and finish buns:

While buns are cooling, line rimmed baking sheet with wax paper(for easy cleanup); set rack with buns over baking sheet.

Whisk kefir and confectioners’ sugar until there are no more lumps

Spoon glaze evenly over buns and serve immediately. 

*Pumpkin Butter

  • 1 can (15 ounces) Pumpkin Puree
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

COMBINE pumpkin, sugar, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and cloves in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 20 to 25 minutes or until thickened.

Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas? Yes please! Fresh, made-at-home corn tortillas?! We’re listening …

This year, we decided to skip the grocery store corn tortillas and opted instead to make our own. Every recipe you’ll find makes it sound like a 5 minute project. It is not. Kitchen DIY projects always take longer than you think they should and corn tortillas are no exception. Yes, measuring masa harina and water take no time. Mixing them takes slightly more, but still no time to speak of. Rolling them (or pressing them) and then cooking them takes time. But when you’re also enjoying a cerveza or cocktail there’s no real rush, right?

A typical recipe for homemade tortillas will yield anywhere from 18 to 24 tortillas, depending on their size and thickness. Because the dough dries out quickly, it isn’t something that can just sit around waiting for you. You have to work to get them all onto the griddle before they get away from you and that cooking takes real time. We suggest you budget a half hour for mixing and griddle time.

A note on masa harina: dried masa is available in just about every grocery in the country. It is inexpensive and a 5 pound bag will yield plenty of tortillas. Be sure to use it quickly as corn flour will oxidize and taste terrible after a while in your pantry. If you’re lucky to live where there is a good sized Latino population and local Latin American groceries, you may be able to find corn masa freshly ground and ready to press. Go for it if you can find it.

We used a fresh batch of tortillas for an evening of venison tacos. The leftovers will be fried and used in an upcoming chilaquiles recipe post so stay tuned. Now, pass the tequila!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!

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Fresh Corn Tortillas

2 cups masa harina
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

Heat an iron skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Whisk masa harina and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a little well in the center and add the warm water. Work the water into the masa and knead it for 2-3 minutes until the water is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. It should be very soft but not sticky to the touch.

Take about a walnut-sized portion of the wet masa and form it into a ball. You can roll the tortillas out with a rolling pin or you can use a tortilla press. If you use a press, you’ll want to use a couple of pieces of plastic to keep the dough from sticking to the press. We cut the side seems of a quart sized ziplock bag and put the ball of dough between the plastic sheets before pressing.

Once pressed, gently ease the wet tortilla onto the pan or griddle and leave for a couple of minutes without disturbing them. They’ll dry a bit around the edges and release from the pan. Flip and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip again and cook until they start to brown slightly. They’ll seem a little dry, but once you take them off the griddle, you will wrap them in a clean town or a sheet of aluminum foil where the residual heat and water will steam them while you continue to cook the remaining tortillas. The steam will soften them by the time you’re ready to eat.

Leftover can be wrapped and refrigerated. Reheat in microwave or toast over an open gas flame on your stovetop. Better yet, cut them into quarters and fry in veggie oil until crips. Salt and serve with your favorite salsa, queso or guacamole.