Cinnamon Squash Rolls

October 2010

At that time of year when I can still cling to the fall harvests and lingering leaf colors, the winter lurks all too closely around the corner, and it helps to have fresh scents wafting from the oven.  Cinnamon rolls remind me of breakfasts at my mother’s table.  My version adds more harvest rolled into each memory and wards off the winter threat a little longer.

Dough:
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) whole-wheat pastry flour, divided
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 local, free range, large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick olive oil spray

Filling:
1 local butternut squash
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup chopped pecans, plus 18 pecans for garnishing

Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup organic brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For dough:

Combine milk and butter in saucepan over medium-high heat until butter melts and mixture is just warmed.

Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.

Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour.  Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For The Filling & Rolling

Boil the butternut squash until soft enough to cut in half.

Remove the seeds and skin.  Cut into chunks and continue to boil until soft enough to mash.

Drain the water and use a food processor to puree the squash chunks until smooth.

Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, and punch down the dough.

Roll out to 15 x 11-inch rectangle.

Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter.

Spread a layer of squash puree, maintaining the border.  There should be extra squash.  The squash will seep out when rolled if you use all of it.

Sprinkle on a layer of chopped pecans.

Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up.

With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  Set aside ½ – 1 cup of puree, for the frosting, depending on how much you yield in total.  Spread the remaining squash over the bottom of the dish. Spread the rolls cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls).

Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F.  Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.

For Frosting

Combine cream cheese, remaining squash, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth.

Pipe frosting on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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