Fall or not, pumpkin puree is a great addition to bread recipes throughout the year as they make loaves and buns pillowy soft naturally. I will spare my family from another bread loaf for breakfast and shape these buns into tiny pumpkin lookalikes by using butcher twine/cooking string from Daiso to section the ball dough into 8 sections. Once the dough balls expand through the strings, they will form pumpkin shaped buns after baking. Pity these strings cannot be reused since bread pieces got stuck onto them during the rising and baking stage. I had to discard them after making these buns.
The extremely warm room temperature lately made the dough rise faster than usual, took it just 40 minutes for the first rise and 20 minutes for final proof. The higher room temperature in my kitchen also seemed to make the dough wetter than usual after adding chilled butter cubes and didn’t look like it was reaching anything closer to window pane stage after 15 minutes of kneading. I tried lowering the dough temperature by placing ice packs around the mixing bowl while it was running. I previously tried with a towel soaked with ice water and it worked out beautifully; the dough reached window pane stage in no time. But these reusable ice backs are even more convenient.
Though the ice packs can be easily made with a ziplock bag and water, I have quite a number of these reusable ice packs stashed inside my freezer. Alway frozen, always ready. They are super handy when packing cold food or shopping for chiller items, and unlike the homemade ones, these won’t leak.
To serve, remove the strings carefully without tearing the soft buns apart. I stick a clove on top of each bun to make them look even more like pumpkins.
I also used ready made red bean paste from Daiso as fillings but you can home make some pumpkin fillings like this for more festive cheer.
Pumpkin Shaped Buns
recipe yields 8 buns 200g plain flour 80g wholemeal flour 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast 2 tablespoons raw sugar 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 120g steamed pumpkin, pureed 1/2 beaten egg** 2 tablespoons milk powder *** 50g water 20g cold butter, cubed red bean paste as filling 8 cloves, for garnish
** I usually add 1 whole beaten egg (70g without shells), but the warm weather made it difficult to work with a wet dough, so I added just half of the beaten egg. If you prefer to add the entire egg to save the trouble of not knowing what to do with the other half (I usually add more eggs and cook omelette), adjust the water added subsequently accordingly.
*** I am in the midst of replacing our household fresh milk consumption with milk powder in order to cut own on the number of plastic bottles and milk cartons we are sending to the recycling bin weekly. If you don’t have milk powder, simply omit it and replace water with fresh milk. I wouldn’t recommend buying a bag of dry milk powder just to use 2 tablespoons if you already have fresh milk at home.
In a mixer bowl, combine all the dry ingredients: plain flour, wholemeal flour, instant yeast, raw sugar, salt, and milk powder, into a uniform mixture. Add pumpkin puree, beaten egg and start the mixer knead with a dough hook attachment on its lowest speed (KA 1). Add water slowly and stop the mixer when all the ingredients come into a rough ball, you might need lesser water than the amount stated in the recipe, depending on the moisture level of the pumpkin puree, watch the dough and adjust accordingly. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
After resting the dough for 15 minutes, start the mixer running on its lowest speed again to knead the dough for 1 minute, before adding cubed butter, one by one. Knead until the dough reaches window pane stage, this is when the dough becomes very smooth and elastic, and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the bowl from mixer, cover and bulk rise for 40 to 60 minutes.
To test if the dough is ready to be shaped, poke a hole in the center with a floured finger, the dent should not bounce back if the bulk rise is completed. Once the dough is ready, punch down the dough to deflate it, and transfer it to a clean work top.
Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Roll each portion into a ball, flatten it and place a tablespoon of red bean paste in the center. Wrap up the filling with the dough, seal it tighly shape it into a ball.
With seam side facing downwards, tie a long string across the bun like this and place it on baking tray lined with parchment paper. Let this sit in a draft-free place to rise for another 20 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven at 160C for 20 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan immediately after baking, and let it cool on a rack completely. Remove string, place a clove on top of each bun as decoration before serving.
Store in a covered container if not consumed immediately, to keep the crumbs from drying out.