Monday, October 19, 2009

Orange Pumpkin Cloverleafs

Here in the Tiny Kitchen, we are always looking for new ideas and fun things to make, and while I love baking it is hard to justify baking a batch of anything when there is only the two of us around to enjoy it. We always feel a little gluttonous faced with stuffing our maws with a dozen or so tart, fruity scones or warm, crumbly muffins yet for some reason we rarely feel inclined to dump our excess baked goods on our unsuspecting co-workers.

Despite all of this, as the days have grown shorter, a bit colder, and much wetter, it seemed like the right time warm the Tiny Kitchen with the comforting smells of baking. With that in mind, we flipped through the pages of a few of our Gourmet magazines to find just the right thing to bake to welcome the beginning of Fall. The missus had a hankering for "something with pumpkin", and these adorable little Orange Pumpkin Cloverleafs seemed to fit the bill nicely.

So in honor of our friends at Gourmet Magazine and the first cool nights of Fall, here are the humble Orange Pumpkin Cloverleafs:

3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted, divided
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon mild honey or sugar
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup canned pure pumpkin
2 large eggs, divided, plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon water

Equipment: a muffin pan with 12 (1/3 to 1/2 cup) muffin cups

Butter muffin cups with 1 tablespoon melted butter. (or, what worked for us was to take the unmelted butter and smear it inside the muffin cups with my fingers.)

Stir together yeast, warm milk, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixtures doesn't foam, start over with new yeast.)

Mix flour, salt, pumpkin, 1 whole egg, yolk, orange zest and juice, and remaining 5 tablespoon butter into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.

Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Our kitchen was not exactly "warm room temperature" so we turned the oven on low and left the door open to provide warmth.)

After the dough has risen, punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Roll half of dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands into a 12-inch-long log (keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap.)

Cut log into 6 equal pieces, then cut each piece into thirds. Roll each piece into a 1-inch ball by cupping your hand and pushing dough against work surface as you roll in a circular motion. Put 3 balls side by side in each of 6 muffin cups.

Make more rolls with remaining dough in the same manner. Cover rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draf-free place at warm room temperature until dough is about 1 inch above rim of muffin cups, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 deg with rack in middle. (That is, of course, unless your oven isn't already on.)

Whisk together remaining egg and water and brush on tops of rolls. (You will have leftover egg wash.)

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes. These rolls are best served warm the day they are made, but can be frozen for up to 1 month, thawed & reheated in a 350 deg oven.

These little rolls are soft and doughy, with a bright citrus tang and have just a the slightest sweetness of pumpkin. They would make a nice change of pace as a dinner roll or a great little breakfast muffin topped with melted butter. These little beauties were a lot of fun to make, the missus and I working together in the Tiny Kitchen to mix, knead, cut and roll them to life.

Finally, a toast to our friends at Gourmet Magazine: It was a sad day when it was announced that Gourmet Magazine would be stopping publication after their November issue; surely the food world will be a much blander place without this magazine to tease our appetites and encourage our love of all things edible. Gourmet gave us a joy for food that no other publication can bring. Whether it was an article about a restaurant's fascinating avant garde cuisine or one person's passion for the traditions of cheese making, Gourmet considered food as something to be treasured and enjoyed. While their work at Gourmet will certainly be missed, Ruth Reichl, Ian Knauer and the whole staff of writers and editors will easily find a home for their talents and passions, and we all look forward to seeing what they do next.