Pumpkin Brioche Buns

"Damn, that smells good,"

said the lady in the home wares section of TJ Maxx, who then proceeded to shove her nostrils in every scented candle to identify the emitter in question.

"Deb, help me find this freakin' amazing pumpkin candle."

Poor Deb.  She's probably still in the votive aisle with her pumpkin loving friend, woozy as hell from snarfing at all the waxy offerings.  What she doesn't know is that I took that luscious smell with me when I hooked a left and scampered towards the clearance shelf full of Le Creuset.

Had Deb and her friend sniffed out my car, they'd have doubly enjoyed that aroma.  Had they followed me to stalk the gourd bouquet to its source, they'd have ended in my kitchen.  The buns hadn't even finished proofing and the damn fragrance had already saturated every nook of the house and nestled deliciously into my clothes.  Now that they've finished baking...oh the pumpkin humanity.  I hope this gorgeous scent never leaves, even after we've eaten every last tender and slightly sweet bite.

But wait, I can't eat them all right away...I'm saving some for bread pudding tomorrow.  Stay tuned...

(Makes 12 large buns)


For the sponge

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 packets instant yeast (I used Red Star's Platinum yeast)

2 cups bread flour

For the dough

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

4 teaspoons salt

1 cup pumpkin puree

8 eggs

2 pounds all purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

4 ounces butter, at room temperature (I used Vermont Creamery's maple sea salt butter)

egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 tablespoons water)


For the sponge

•Preheat the oven to 400ยบ.  Line two half sheet pans with parchment.  Set aside.

•In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, maple syrup, yeast and flour.  Mix until smooth.  Cover and let rise until the sponge has double, about an hour.

For the dough

Dough, ready to proof.

•Add the brown sugar, salt, pumpkin and eggs to the sponge and mix until incorporated.  Switch out the paddle attachment for the hook attachment and add the flour and mix until just combined.  Add the butter, a small piece at a time and continue mixing until the dough is shiny and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  This can take some time, up to 15 to 20 minutes.  It's a large amount of dough as well, so it's best to use a larger (5 to 6 quart) mixer to spare the motor of smaller mixers (it also tends to shimmy up the hook and invade mixer crevices).  Otherwise, sprinkle a small amount of flour on a work surface an knead by hand.  It's a great workout.

•Coat a large bowl with oil or non stick cooking spray and turn the dough over in the bowl so all the dough is coated.  Cover and allow to double in size, about an hour.

•Punch down the dough and divide the dough into 12 even pieces.

•Roll the dough into a tight ball, continue with the remaining pieces of dough.  Cover the sheet pans with plastic wrap and allow the buns to barely double in size.  Brush the bun with egg wash and using a bread lame or a razor blade, score each bun in a star burst fashion to mimic the look of a pumpkin.

•Bake until the buns are deep, golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.

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