On a trip to New Zealand, I had a lamb burger served on a pumpkin bun. The burger itself was delicious, of course, but what really astonished me was the bun: rich and slightly sweet, with a cluster of crunchy pumpkin seeds on top. I decided to try making my own pumpkin buns when I got home, using a pumpkin dinner roll recipe from Gourmet as a jumping-off point. These buns are plenty flavorful on their own, and can stand up to all sorts of meaty, spicy fillings. —ieatthepeach
Beat egg in a medium bowl. Set aside 1 tbsp of beaten egg for an egg wash later. To the rest of the egg, add pumpkin puree, milk, and butter, and mix to combine.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, yeast, and salt. Add wet ingredients and stir until the flour is combined. The dough should be slightly sticky, but not cling to your fingers. If it feels too wet, add a bit more flour; if it feels too dry, add a splash of milk.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the board. Stop kneading when the dough is soft, supple, and slightly tacky; if you poke it with your finger, it should spring back. (You can also knead the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook, which should take about 6-8 minutes.)
Lightly oil the inside of the mixing bowl (no need to wash it out in between). Place the dough in the bowl, and toss to coat evenly with the oil. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. While the dough rises, lightly grease a baking sheet.
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch it down. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces. Working one at a time, roll each piece of dough into a ball, then gently press it into a disc about 1/2 inch thick. Lay the discs of dough out onto the greased baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size. (The buns should now be slightly touching each other.)
Preheat the oven to 375º F, and position a rack in the middle. In a small bowl, beat together reserved 1 tbsp egg and 1 tsp water or milk to make an egg wash. Lightly brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash, being careful not to deflate the dough. Sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds onto the center of each bun, and gently pat them down to make sure they’ve stuck to the egg wash. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the buns are golden on top and firm to the touch.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Let the buns cool completely, then gently pull them apart. Slice in half lengthwise, and serve with whatever fillings you like.
To store leftover buns, leave them whole (unsliced). Store in a plastic bag at room temperature for up to 4 days. For longer-term storage, wrap individual buns in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months.