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Warm to the Core

Updated: May 5, 2021

The leaves on the tree behind our garden are almost all gone now (into our garden mostly) but autumn is still in full force. Just because it's November, doesn't mean we have to stop caring about pumpkins. Pumpkins, squashes and gourds are ripe and ready to eat all through to the end of the year... and even into the spring.

Butternut squash, for example, is a very popular ingredient in soups, stews and curries for the majority of the winter. Even roasting it until it's caramelised and serving it on top of lentils is delicious. But you never hear about pumpkins after Halloween. Unless you're American and celebrate Thanksgiving.

The temptation after Halloween is over is to throw away the pumpkin you carved before it starts rotting on the doorstep. But what a waste of perfectly good fruit (it has seeds, therefore fruit, apparently). I'll be honest, this year I didn't carve a pumpkin. I was going to. I really was. There were so many Halloween decorations around the village and I wanted to do my bit. But I still have a little person and a husband working from home and we're in the middle of a pandemic so I can't palm her off on a friend/sibling/parent/in-law while I get out some sharp tools. But, I did admire all the talent on the streets around us and some people got VERY creative.

Anyway, pumpkin. Like most fruits, it can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. It makes a great curry, soup, ravioli filling or even pasta topping. Not only can you have it in a sweet pie, last year I used Mai from Almond and Fig's pumpkin granola recipe. And this year I wanted to stick to the sweet theme. I personally prefer pumpkin as sweet rather than savoury. So, what did I do? What do I always do to make anything and everything sweet? I stuck it in some sweet rolls. And let me just say, if you make these, you'll want pumpkins to be around for Christmas because this is going to make a heck of a Christmas morning breakfast.

Sticky, Spicy Pumpkin Pull-Apart Rolls

This recipe is quite long and parts of it can be made in advance so that you can split it over a couple of days. Or you can do the whole thing on a rainy Sunday and settle down with a book and a cuppa in the afternoon to enjoy a roll.

For the dough:

  • 1 sachet of fast action dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)

  • 250ml whole milk

  • 80g melted and cooled butter

  • 3 tbsp caster sugar

  • 400g strong white flour

  • 2 tsp ground cardamom 

  • 1tsp salt

  • 1 beaten egg

For the filling:

  • 1 pumpkin, peeled, cored and chopped into big chunks

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For the syrup:

  • 100ml water

  • 100g caster sugar

  • 5 cloves

  • 5 cardamom pods

This is the part you can make in advance. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Put the pumpkin in an oven dish and cover it tightly with foil. Even though you'll want to get rid of the moisture eventually, you need the cover over the dish so that the pumpkin doesn't form a skin. Roast the pumpkin for an hour. If you have kept the seeds, you can wash them, salt them and stick them in the oven with the pumpkin for 40 mins or so. That's your personal chef's treat.

Once the pumpkin is completely soft, take it out and let it cool until it's cool enough to handle. Then scoop all the flesh off the skin and put it in a medium saucepan. Put the pan on a medium heat and cook the pumpkin until it's a lot drier. As it cooks, the pumpkin will lose it's structure and turn to mush. Stir it often and when you stop seeing liquid and the mush clumps together more, it's ready. It will take 10-15 minutes depending on how strong your hob is.

If you're making it in advance, spread it out so that it cools quickly and then leave it in the fridge for a day or so until you're ready to use it.

When you're ready to make the rolls, warm the milk so that it is just warm to the touch (36 degrees C). If you heat it too far it will kill the yeast. Add the dry yeast and whisk it into the milk. Cover with cling film and let it sit for 15 minutes until it's foamy.

Melt the butter while you're waiting. In a stand mixer, add the milk and yeast mixture when it's ready and then pour in the butter. With a dough hook, mix this for a couple of minutes then add the sugar.

After it's mixed like this for a minute or so, gradually add the flour, salt and cardamom. Once it has all been added, the dough will be very dry so add half of the beaten egg. Knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be stable but a bit sticky. Try not to add too much flour.

Cover the dough in the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for half an hour or until it's doubled in size. While it's proving, get the pumpkin puree and mix in the cinnamon and sugar.

Once the dough has proved, flour a board or work surface and roll the dough out so that it is 40 x 50cm rectangle. I use one of my chopping boards that is those dimensions and it stops me rolling the dough too thin. If you don't have a board that size, flour a work surface and make an outline to those dimensions in the flour.

When the dough is rolled out, spread out the pumpkin mixture so that it completely covers the dough. Roll the dough up from the long side to make an every shaped cylinder. Cut it up into 12 rolls.

Grease and line a 9-inch baking tin. Put the rolls in spacing them apart a little and cover with a tea towel to prove for half an hour.

When you're ready, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Brush the top of the rolls with the remaining egg from the dough mix and bake for 12 minutes. Turn the tin around and bake them for another 12.

While the rolls are baking, make the syrup. Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring the boil. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is slightly thicker than water (about 10 minutes).

When the rolls come out of the oven, drizzle the syrup evenly over the rolls - just make sure the tin is sealed or over a surface that you won't mind getting sticky. Leave to cool in the pan for half an hour or so before digging in.


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