Cranberry-Pumpkin Sourdough Rolls

This is a jazz-up version, with the volume turned up in flavor, of the King Arthur Flour’s cranberry-pumpkin rolls.  This is the ABC fall recipe challenge for November. The original recipe called for several warm spices: ground cinnamon, ginger and clove. I can’t think of a better time to reach deep into the pantry and bring out those forgotten spices. The pumpkin dough can certainly take on extra flavors. I sprinkled some crushed green cardamom and nutmeg (a quarter teaspoon each) to the mix. The piquant and assertive aroma of freshly cracked cardamom punctuated the air as I crushed the pod. The smell positively convinced me that I was heading in the right direction. Strangely, it also awakened memories of the most alluring spicy chai tea I had in a long-ago afternoon.If there was one thing I wished I had changed, it’s the pumpkin puree. After tasting the puree from the can, which tasted bland with a metallic aftertaste, I knew I’d have done better with a homemade version. Or at least process the can-puree a little further. Well, next time!

The magic potion in bumping up flavors, in my mind, was the sourdough starter. My much treasured sourdough starter has descended from King Arthur Flour / New England, dating back to the 1700s. I have adapted it to suit my preference for whole wheat. The sourdough starter I’ve been maintaining is now a 50/50 mix of all-purpose and whole-wheat flour. The starter has made a permanent mark on almost everything I bake, from breads to scones to cakes.

I incorporated mature and unfed starter to the pumpkin dough, mostly as a flavor enhancer than as a rising agent. Acidity in the sourdough culture helps to impart a more complex flavor and improve the keeping quality of the rolls. Don’t expect them to be sour since the starter was old and tired and fermentation was far from active.

I replaced a quarter (5 oz) of the total amount of flour (20 oz) in the recipe with sourdough starter. Using 100% hydration (equal amount in weight of flour and water) starter I had on hand, 10 oz was needed to substitute five oz of all-purpose flour and five oz of water. For the remaining 15 oz flour, I used 10 oz bread flour and five oz whole-wheat flour. A little over one oz of water is enough, rather than six, given the amount of water in the sourdough starter. I left out the crystallized ginger; never tasted one I like. The ingredient list is shown below. All additions and changes are highlighted in blue.

The ingredient list for the jazz-up cranberry-pumpkin sourdough rolls:

  • 10 ounces bread flour
  • 5 ounces whole wheat flour
  • 10 ounces sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/8 cup (1 ounces) water
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (4 1/2 ounces) dried cranberries



I followed the same exact procedures as the original recipe: combined all the ingredients, kneaded them in the mixer with a dough hook until a soft and cohesive dough formed, and allowed it to rise for about an hour and a half. Then the dough was divided and shaped into 16 rolls. I had fun arranging them in pans of different sizes and shapes. I settled with one 9-in round pan and several mini rectangular pans. The rolls were proofed for another hour in the pans at room temperature. When they became puffy, they were ready for the oven. Egg wash (by whisking together one egg yolk and one tablespoon of cream) was liberally brushed on top for shine. The pans, large and small, went into the 350°F oven all at once for about 20-25 minutes.

Purely for fun, I rolled some leftover pumpkin dough in a small shallow tart pan. Thin slices of apple were placed on the dough, doted with butter and sugar. In no time, it was ready to join the merry baking procession. Don’t know what I’d call it, maybe pumpkin apple pizza? Actually, it looked quite remarkable and tasted delicious, like all the rolls. Except for one thing: it suffered from, what I’d consider to be, a case of identity crisis!

The rolls turned out beautifully with a rich mahogany patina, a tender crumb and a lofty appearance. I baked up a storm with this recipe. Not an issue. Share bundles of these warm, spiced-up cranberry pumpkin rolls with friends, served with a cup of spike-up chai!

I submitted this posting to yeastspotting.

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  • Reply
    November 2, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Love you little apple pizza! Beautiful rolls!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks! The little pizza was fun to make. The unexpected always makes me chuckle

  • Reply
    November 2, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    You achieved beautiful colour on your rolls and what a lovely, glossy finish!

  • Reply
    Virginia Taylors
    November 3, 2014 at 12:51 am

    I love cardamon. I wish I would have thought to add a dash. Beautifully creative.

  • Reply
    November 3, 2014 at 2:37 am

    All in the looks, and the egg wash, but it works. Thanks for your kind words!

  • Reply
    November 3, 2014 at 2:44 am

    I love cardamon, hence the inspiration. I'm glad the taste comes together. Thanks for your comments.

  • Reply
    Karen Kerr
    November 3, 2014 at 6:54 am

    Nice idea adding the starter. My starter is a descendant of he KAF starter too. Gorgeous rolls.

  • Reply
    November 3, 2014 at 9:13 am

    They look very good, a sourdough roll with more spice: that sounds really good. Love that apple-deliciousness, great idea

  • Reply
    November 3, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I took a course at KAF and everyone was given the starter. I was skeptical at first about having to feed it regularly. This starter is quite easy to work with. A reliable workhorse!

  • Reply
    November 3, 2014 at 9:40 am

    "Apple-deliciousness" may just be the right name for it. Thanks for naming this baby!

  • Reply
    November 4, 2014 at 3:18 am

    The beautiful mahogany color of your rolls is striking! Absolutely gorgeous. That apple pie/pizza is just fantastic. Very creative!! :o)

  • Reply
    November 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    This is a quick and easy recipe to play with, thanks for a good selection!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Beautiful rolls and apple pizza tart :). Love your photography as well.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Guess what? Photography was my first love and I can get really lost in it!

  • Reply
    sunita rohira
    November 8, 2014 at 11:11 am

    What beautiful color on the rolls. I love green cardamoms and the smell must have been awesome. Lovely apple pizza.

  • Reply
    November 8, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Cardamom is a winner in my mind. Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    Karin Anderson
    November 24, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Beautiful rolls!
    Interesting idea, to use some old sourdough as flavoring. The addition of cardamom certainly didn't hurt!

  • Reply
    December 2, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    There are so much sourdough starter discarded regularly in order to maintain the starter, I'd explore every reason to use them!

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