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.


Peanut Butter

We eat peanut butter all the time, topped with a variety of sweeteners. Sliced banana is cool, smooth and sweet – a perfect counterpoint to the rugged texture of toast and peanuts. A drizzle of honey makes for a rich peanut butter bite, thick and super sweet. Like most people, we love fruit jams and jellies with our peanut butter. American’s love to pair it with strawberry jam. What’s not to love about that pair?

A little over 90% of households keep peanut butter in the pantry. Today, the peanut butter market is robust, pulling in a little more than $1 billion in annual retail sales. As prepared food goes, it’s relatively inexpensive and nutrient dense, packing tons of protein and healthy fats.

There are plenty of options on grocery shelves. Just about everyone knows and likes at least one big national brand. But there are smaller producers selling really great tasting peanut butter, albeit at a much higher price. We’re fans of Santa Cruz Crunchy Organic Dark Roast. But as with so many pantry staples, peanut butter is the sort of thing you can make at home, deliciously and inexpensively.

Creamy or chunky? Depends on your gender and where you live. Those of us on the West Coast tend to prefer the chunky stuff. In general, women favor the creamy stuff. So it should come as no surprise that most of the peanut butter sold in America is smooth and creamy. In our household though, chunky always wins. We’re two gay men afterall. No women to tell us what type of peanut butter to eat!

Creamy peanut butter certainly has its uses in home cooking, but when it comes to the simple pleasure of slathering peanut butter onto a crusty piece of toast, nothing is as satisfying as the crunchy texture of all those little pieces of roasted peanuts.

Though peanuts have a pretty high fat content, making peanut butter requires the addition of fat to help turn ground peanuts into a spreadable butter. Peanut oil is the obvious choice, but you can experiment here as well. We used coconut oil in the peanut butter pictured. Coconut oil keeps it super thick and gives it a slightly sweet, tropical flavor. Using raw peanuts gives you better control over the depth of the roasted flavor in the final product, and allows you to fine tune your own recipe with just a little experimentation. Once prepared, peanut butter should go into the refrigerator to extend its shelf-life.

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Roasted Peanut Butter

2 cups (16 ounces) raw, shelled peanuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil or other oil (we used warmed coconut oil)

Heat the oven to 350°F and toast the peanuts on a baking sheet until lightly golden and glossy with oil, about 10 minutes. Place the warm peanuts, salt and honey into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Place the lid back on and continue to process while slowly drizzling in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth, but not too smooth, 1  to 1 1/2 minutes, or longer if you want ultra smooth peanut butter. Place the peanut butter in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.