Pumpkin Spice Custard w/ Caramelized Apples

Autumn is upon us and love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is well underway. It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.

The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling and the air is filled with the ‘flavors of fall’. With both apples & pumpkins in season right now its hard not to enjoy making use of them.

As usual, this recipe started out with a simple little no-cook pudding but got an upgrade with some spiced, caramelized apples. Yum!

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Pumpkin Spice Custard w/ Caramelized Apples
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Instructions
Caramelized Apples & Cranberries
  1. In a medium pot, melt butter then add water & sugar. When the caramel is golden brown, add the cranberries, swirling them into the caramel. When the cranberries begin to burst, add the apple & orange zest, then sprinkle with the spices. Lower the heat & simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken. Do not over cook the compote as it will thicken when cooled.
  2. Transfer to a heat resistant glass bowl & cool to room temperature, then cover & chill.
Pudding
  1. In a large bowl, beat pudding mix, pumpkin puree, milk, brown sugar & spices until smooth & creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Chill for an hour before assembling with fruit.
Assembly
  1. In serving glasses of choice, layer the pudding with caramelized fruit compote. Top with a dollop of whipped cream & a sprinkle of gingersnap crumbs if you wish.

Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid

Hot Cross Buns, the sweet roll with a mythical history, are an Easter classic. This simple piece of spiced bread decorated with a cross, while not an extravagant treat, is a global food tradition. Given their long running history, it is no wonder there are so many fables surrounding their origin. From warding off evil spirits to cementing friendships, the stories of hot cross buns can be documented back to 6th century Greece.

While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. Brion & I are extremely fond of these little gems, so every year I enjoy to come up with a new version but still not straying away from the original iconic bun (or bread) taste.

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Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid
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Instructions
Marinate Fruit
  1. In a bowl with a lid, marinate prepared dried fruit in your choice of alcohol or orange juice overnight or at least 30 minutes.
Sweet Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 Tbsp sugar; allow to sit until frothy.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom & ginger.
  3. In a larger bowl, melt butter slightly; add remaining sugar, beaten egg, vanilla, a portion of the marinated fruit & frothy yeast mixture. Combine then add flour mixture & continue mixing to combine all ingredients.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 15 minutes. If necessary, add a bit more flour. Shape into a ball; place in a greased bowl, turn over once or twice to coat the dough with oil. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla & any excess rum drained off fruit until smooth.
Assembly & Baking
  1. On a lightly floured work surface or parchment paper, roll the dough into a 12 x 14-inch rectangle, ensure an even thickness of 1/4 inch.
  2. Along one long side of the dough make parallel, 4-inch long cuts that are 1-inch apart (like piano keys), with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Repeat on opposite side, making sure to line up these cuts with those you have already made on the other side.
  3. Spoon all but 1/4 cup cream cheese filling down the center of the rectangle. (Reserve the 1/4 cup of the cream cheese for making crosses on baked braid). Leaving 1-inch on the top & bottom unfilled. Smooth cream cheese mixture then top with remaining marinated fruit.
  4. Begin folding the cut side strips of dough in pairs over the filling at an angle, alternating left, then right, as if you were braiding, until you reach the other end. Tuck the ends underneath the braid.
  5. Transfer to a baking sheet; cover with a loose plastic wrap & a towel. Allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Just before placing braid in the oven, make the egg wash & lightly brush over the top of the braid.
  6. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Check after 15 minutes; if the braid is starting to brown to fast, float a piece of foil, shiny side down, over it. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
Decorating
  1. Place 1/4 cup cream cheese mixture in a small piping bag that has been fitted with a small round tip. Make crosses on braid.
Recipe Notes
  • If you would prefer, mix all the marinated fruit right into the dough instead of putting some in the filling.
  • If you would rather not decorate with some crosses on top, use all cream cheese in the filling, your choice.

Orange Slice Cookies

For many, orange juice and oatmeal are seen as breakfast food. I like both, so using them in baked goods works for me.

Most of the time, when it comes to cake or cookies, extract is where your flavor will come from. I recall an orange loaf my mother made by first cooking the sugar with orange zest and adding it to the batter. It gave the loaf such a bold orange flavor.

In these cookies, I’m using both the zest and juice of a fresh orange and a tiny bit of lemon zest to add another dimension of citrus. The oatmeal is processed to an oat flour.

The use of both butter and olive oil further enhances the flavor of the cookies. Butter is smooth and creamy, adding the dairy richness, while the oil provides a unique flavor and aroma.

Once the cookies are baked, a glaze using more fresh orange juice and zest makes these orange slice cookies ‘addicting’ as Brion says.

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Orange Slice Cookies
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
Cookies
  1. In a bowl, combine sugar, butter & oil; beat until fluffy. Add yogurt, vanilla, orange juice & zests.
  2. In a food processor, pulse oatmeal for a few seconds. Add oat flour, white flour, baking powder, cardamom & salt. Blend ingredients together well to form a soft dough. Evenly divide dough into 10 pieces; form each into a ball. Cover & refrigerate for 20 minutes so that the dough becomes a little firmer.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper.
  4. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator; slice each ball into 4 pieces & shape each piece to resemble an orange slice. Place on baking sheets spacing about 2 inches apart.
  5. Bake cookies about 20-25 minutes or until the sides of the cookies become a light golden brown.
Glaze
  1. Combine remaining orange juice & zest with enough powdered sugar to make a glaze consistency. When cookies are cool, brush with glaze,

Roasted Rhubarb Cornbread Scones

Switching up the way we cook rhubarb makes us fall in love with it all over again. Quite often rhubarb is stewed to use in various recipes. A good alternative is to roast it in the oven with a little orange juice & brown sugar. The roasting helps the rhubarb to keep its beautiful color, intensifies the flavor and it will retain its shape rather than turning to mush. Once you have roasted the rhubarb use as you would in any recipe using stewed rhubarb.

Cornbread is one of those culinary creations that pairs well with almost anything. Some dishes that include cornbread are well known and fairly common pairings, while others are still relatively new.

This particular recipe was adapted from the 1932 edition of The Guide to Good Cooking, published by Five Roses Flour. In the book, the basic recipe is for cornmeal muffins with a slight adaptation for fruit-topped Johnny Cake.

If these scones appeal to you, nothing says you can’t swap out the rhubarb for other fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, peaches or apples. Yum!

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Roasted Rhubarb Cornbread Scones
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Cornbread Scones
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Cornbread Scones
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Instructions
Roasted Rhubarb
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash & dice rhubarb; spread over parchment paper. Drizzle with orange juice & sprinkle with sugar. The rhubarb will lose about half the volume during roasting. You will end up with about 4 cups. Roast about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from oven to cool until needed. Refrigerate any leftover rhubarb.
Cornbread Scones
  1. Coat 8 ramekins with baking spray & evenly distribute roasted rhubarb between them. Place on an edged baking sheet & set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse oatmeal for a few seconds then add flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, cardamom & anise powder. Pulse for a few more seconds to evenly mix. Add cold butter & pulse just slightly to cut in; do not over mix. Place in a bowl, add egg, orange zest, buttermilk & vanilla; combine ONLY until just mixed.
  3. Place equal amounts of scone batter into each ramekin, filling no more than 3/4 full. Using an offset spatula, level the batter in each ramekin.
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes or until batter has risen & tests baked. Remove scones from oven; allow to sit for 5 minutes, then invert each onto a serving tray.

Baked Apricot Rice Pudding

Chances are good, you’ve tried rice pudding at least once. That’s because humans have been eating the dish for thousands of years across the world.

Today, rice pudding is considered a humble dessert …. a simple mixture of rice with milk, sugar and spices. But for centuries, rice pudding held a place of distinction in the royal courts of Europe. Because rice did not grew well in the European continent, it had to be imported from Asia along the Silk Road or by water. The extensive trade routes made rice an expensive commodity that only the rich could afford. As the world seemingly grew smaller through the effects of globalization, the import of rice became affordable and common.

Many early rice puddings did not resemble the sweet dessert we think of today. This sweetened version didn’t arrive until the 15th century. Usually rice pudding is sweetened with white or brown sugar, honey or dried fruit, but you can also use maple syrup, jam, date sugar or fruit juice concentrate.

Different varieties of rice lend their own tastes and aromas. I opt for Arborio, which makes the pudding creamy even when I use low fat milk or non-fat milk. Fruit, whether fresh, dried or candied is the puddings perfect partner. Today, rice pudding is considered an easy and versatile dessert which many of us associate with our childhood.

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Baked Apricot Rice Pudding
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. In a bowl, combine egg whites, egg, milk, sugar & vanilla. Beat until combined but not foamy. Stir in cooked rice, snipped apricots, cardamom & orange zest.
  3. Place 4 custard cups in a rectangular baking dish. Divide rice mixture among dishes, Place baking dish on an oven rack. Pour boiling water into the baking dish around custard cups to a depth of 1-inch.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until just set, stirring after 20 minutes. Serve warm or chilled. Garnish with slivered apricots & pistachios.

French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier

Among the world’s many artisan breads and cakes, the breakfast bread ‘gibassier’ is one of the most popular in the French tradition. This buttery, textured bread is somewhat like an Italian panettone. What makes gibassier unique, is the use of orange blossom water which gives the bread a distinct flavor that is difficult to replicate with any substitute.

The recipe appears to have originated in the rocky, southeast of France, in Lourmarin Village, Provence. Many believe that this generations-old treat is named after the mountain called Le Gibas, which forms part of the village’s horizon.

Gibassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed or snipped decoratively before they are baked to give the fleur de lis or snowflake appearance.

It is difficult to say whether gibassier is a biscuit, a pastry, doughnut or a cookie. One thing is for sure …. its taste is unique. Traditionally served at breakfast and is dipped into honey butter while it is still warm.

Each Christmas I enjoy to try making a Christmas bread from another culture. Of course, that means as an extra bonus, researching the food history behind it.

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French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine European, French
Keyword Gibassier
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine water, yeast & 2 Tbsp sugar. Allow to sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar & aniseed. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture & add eggs, butter, orange blossom water, orange zest & candied orange peel. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix to make a 'shaggy' dough. Turn out on a floured surface & knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, about 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  5. Punch down the risen dough & turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces & shape each one into a ball. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Flatten each ball of dough into a disc about 1.5 cm thick & place each one on one of the baking sheets. Cut the disc into 6 sections, leaving them connected at the center.
  6. Make a cut through the center of each section without cutting all the way through to the edge. Best to use something you can press straight down as opposed to dragging a knife through the dough. Pull the sections outward to separate & elongate them a little. Using your fingers, open out the slits & form a V-shape in the top of each section.
  7. Cover each loaf loosely with buttered plastic wrap. Set aside to rise in a draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  9. Brush each loaf with a little egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden & baked through. Slide the loaves onto a wire rack & brush with honey butter while still warm or dust with sugar.

Mini Harvest Galettes

Its like a mix between carrot cake and apple pie. Vegetables and fruit in a pie …. this recipe never fails to be fantastic even if you don’t like zucchini.

The oral history of pie predates its written record. Many cooks stand by family secrets scrawled on stained index cards. It seems, pie is eaten for breakfast, with lunch and for dessert after dinner. In many ways, pie is more prized because it takes time and effort, a slice carries more importance than a cookie, but is less fussy than cake.

The perfect pie (or galette), is built on two things …. a well made crust with a flaky texture and golden color and a fresh, well set, flavorful filling.

The combination of carrots, apple and zucchini is something special. The carrots and zucchini are really interchangeable, so if you’d like to use more of one than the other, no problem.

When baked, zucchini has a similar texture to an apple; it gets soft but retains some texture. Add the same warm, fragrant spices as in an apple pie, lemon juice, a bit of extra sugar to compensate and you got it!

This recipe has been one of my fall favorites for many years and we still enjoy its wonderful flavor.

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Spicy Harvest Galette
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Instructions
  1. Prepare pastry & either use 6 mini flan pans or one 9"deep pie pan. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, zucchini, carrots, nuts & flour; toss to coat.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together brown sugar & butter; add cinnamon, cardamom, salt, lemon juice, vanilla, orange zest & 2 eggs. Blend well. Add apple mixture & combine well.
  4. Roll out pastry larger than your pans. Line pans leaving the jagged edge to fold over filling. Make a few pastry designs for the tops if you wish. Spoon filling into a pastry lined, mini pans. Flip rough edges over filling. Top with pastry in a fall leaf pattern. In a small dish, blend egg wash & brush over crust.
  5. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until deep golden brown. If necessary, cover pies loosely with foil during last 15 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.
  6. Serve warm with whipped cream. Store any 'leftovers' in refrigerator.
Recipe Notes
  • I laid the grated zucchini on paper towel  & placed the grated apple in a strainer while I prepared the rest of the ingredients. In both cases, I did NOT hand squeeze them as you still need some of that moisture to prevent having a dry filling when baked.

Mandarin Orange Tarts

Although mandarin oranges are a traditional holiday food, they sure make a wonderful bit of sunshine for us still in the colder part of our year.

Very often when I go to make something and the recipe calls for orange or lemon zest, its not something I have on hand. I guess its all about thinking ahead and drying the citrus peels when I do have them. There is no magic secret … just time and patience. Wash and dry the fruit, lightly grate off only the top layer of peel. Transfer to a flat dish to dry then store the zest in a glass jar. When it comes time to use, crush some between your fingers before adding it to other ingredients. This will release the citrus essence and flavor.

There is no comparison between artificial flavors and real citrus zest in baked goods. These little mandarin tarts not only use it in the filling but the pastry as well.

There are various other uses for citrus zest such as in poultry marinades, baked into breads or for a splash of flavor in tea. These tarts made such a simple little refreshing dessert.

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Mandarin Orange Tarts
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, Asia, French
Servings
Ingredients
Orange Pastry
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, Asia, French
Servings
Ingredients
Orange Pastry
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
Votes: 2
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Instructions
Orange Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk flour, sugar & zest. Add butter & blend with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the orange juice, using enough to form a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl.
  3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 2 1/2-inch cutter, make 12 circles & fit into tart pan cups. Line the pastry with foil & add pastry weights. Bake about 10-15 minutes. Remove weights & foil & bake 10 minutes longer until pastry is golden.
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
  1. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar & cornstarch until it turns pale yellow.
  2. In a saucepan, combine milk & orange zest; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, slowly add a egg mixture a little at a time, whisking well until fully incorporated.
  3. Return mixture to heat & keep whisking over medium heat until it thickens. Stir in orange juice. Transfer to a bowl & cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream. When it comes to room temperature, refrigerate.
  4. When cooled & you are ready to use the pastry cream, whisk with an electric mixer for 15-20 seconds to a smooth & spreadable texture. Spoon filling into baked tart shells. Top each with a couple of mandarin orange slices. Brush oranges with a bit of apricot jelly.
Recipe Notes
  • If pastry weights are not available, reverse you tart pan & place pastry rounds over the bottoms of tart cups to bake.
  • If you use canned mandarins for decoration, drain & blot on paper towel to remove excess liquid.

Fruity Swedish Tea Rings w/ Orange Butter

Believe it or not, we are at the eve of Christmas 2019. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is wondering how we got here so fast. This year I thought it would be nice to make some Swedish Tea Rings for gifting.

These sweet bread rings are slashed at the sides to expose the colorful fruit and nut filling. There are different variations of this bread, some do not have any fruit in them at all, just cinnamon sugar.

Swedish tea rings have been around for a very long time and while not much is known about their origin, their roots are definitely Swedish. It is believed that the bread essentially started as Christmas preparation and was a part of the grand Swedish Christmas feast.

It seems, the authentic Swedish tea rings are similar to a cinnamon roll in the shape of a ring or wreath. I have also concluded that cardamom ( one of my favorite spices) is to Scandinavians like vanilla is to us in America …. the backdrop to anything sweet. With that, I decided to go with a fruit bread that brought both cardamom and cinnamon together. Sweet!

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Fruity Swedish Tea Rings w/ Orange Butter
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Bread Dough
Filling
Orange Butter
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Bread Dough
Filling
Orange Butter
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Instructions
Sweet Roll Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 1/2 tsp sugar; let stand for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 6 Tbsp sugar, melted butter, sour cream & eggs. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cardamom, cinnamon & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture, 1 cup at a time, combining well after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine butter, sugar, extract & orange zest; set aside. Toss the fruit & almonds with flour; set aside.
Assembly
  1. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, divide in half. Roll each into an 18 x 12-inch rectangle. Spread half of the (butter) filling over each rectangle to within 1/2-inch of edges; sprinkle each with half of the fruit mixture. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side, pinch seams to seal.
  2. Place seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheets. Pinch ends together to form wreaths. With sharp scissors, cut from outside edge to 2/3 of the way toward center of ring at 1-inch intervals.
  3. Separate the cut pieces slightly, twisting each individually to allow filling to show,overlapping with the previous piece. Cover & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 F. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. In a small bowl, combine orange butter ingredients. Serve with fruit bread. Refrigerate any leftover orange butter.

Pumpkin Dinner Buns

Autumn is in full swing with all its fabulous foliage and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. For Canadians, this holiday is linked to the tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia or horn filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means ‘horn of plenty’ in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Pumpkins, turkeys, ears of corn and large displays of food are used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

The ‘flavor of fall’ always brings pumpkin to mind (or butternut squash) for me. Since there are only two days left before our Thanksgiving day, when we will stir, boil, grate & grease our way to a table filled with wonderful food. While everyone has their own traditions and ‘must eat’ dishes, these pumpkin yeast buns are a perfect compliment to this autumn feast.

Lightly sweet and beautifully light and fluffy, this recipe can be made in two ways. One as a dinner bun to have with the main course and two as a cream cheese filled sweet roll for breakfast.

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Pumpkin Dinner Buns
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Course Main Dish
Servings
Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
Pumpkin Dough
  1. In a small bowl, place yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to rise for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, brown sugar, butter, salt, spices, eggs & pumpkin puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, knead for about 2-3 minutes. Divide into 16 equal pieces, shaping into balls. For 16 buns you will need about 16-90 cm pieces of kitchen thread. Tie thread around the dough ball in a way that the ball is divided into 8 parts. Do not tie the ball too tightly as it will continue to rise a lot more during the second proofing & baking. Cover the pumpkin shaped dough balls with a tea towel & set aside to proof until buns have doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
For FILLED Buns
  1. In a small bowl, beat together filling ingredients. Follow directions above. At the point where you have divided the dough into 16 pieces, fill each one with some cream cheese filling ( I had divided my filling into 16 portions to make it easy). Gather the corners together to form a ball. Follow tying directions in above instructions to form the pumpkin effect. Cover & allow to rise until doubled in size.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't have the time to do all this tying, place the dough balls onto the lined baking tray about 3-4 cm apart. Gently flatten the balls a little. Dip the tip of a scissors into oil. Cut the dough into 'petals' to form the pumpkin look. After they are baked, insert a piece of pecan or even use pumpkin seeds to make the stems.