2/3 cup lukewarm milk, whatever you got – whole, skim, 2%, or non-dairy – or plain water’s OK too
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 TBLS sugar
3 – 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pumpkin or squash purée, fresh, canned, frozen – again whatever you got – at room temperature
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick, 8 tablespoons butter, 6 TBLS softened, 2 TBLS melted
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3/4 cup basil pesto, homemade or store bought
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
Flaky sea salt
Make the sponge: Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer. Add a pinch of the sugar and sprinkle in the yeast. Let sit for a few minutes until foamy, then whisk in a scant cup of the flour. Whisk until you have a smooth batter. Let rise in a warmish spot for 45 minutes to an hour until the mixture is full of big bubbles.
Make the dough: Put the bowl into your stand mixer and add the rest of the sugar, the pumpkin, the nutmeg, and the salt. Measure in about a cup of the flour, and beat with the paddle until you have a smooth batter. Add the softened butter in tablespoon chunks with the mixer running. When all the butter is incorporated, add enough of the remaining flour to make a smooth dough that clears the sides of the bowl. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, or turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 – 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, or plastic container, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour. Alternatively, the dough can be refrigerated overnight. Allow to come to room room temperature before proceeding.
Assemble the rolls: Heat the oven to 375°. In a small bowl, mix the pesto with the pepper, Parmesan, and egg. Turn out the dough and divide it in half. Roll one half into an oval that’s about 14×8 inches. Spread with the pesto mixture, and roll up tightly. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Starting about an inch from the end closest to you, use sharp kitchen shears to make a deep incision at a 45-degree angle away from you, cutting almost to the bottom without cutting through. Carefully shift small cut piece to the left, keeping the bottom connected. Make another 45-degree incision 1″ from first. Carefully shift piece to the right. Continue cutting and shifting to alternate sides for a total of 12-14 pieces. (These are the verbatim instructions from Epicurious; I don’t think I did it correctly, and it still looks good. Alternatively, you can simply roll up the dough, and then make scores about every inch across the top.) Repeat with the second half of the dough. Brush both rolls with melted butter, and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with flaky salt.