Yeasted Pumpkin Rolls + Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

It’s here! The Virtual Pumpkin Party of everyone’s dreams. A day when bloggers celebrate pumpkin in all of its autumn glory. Because we all know that pumpkin rules the months of October and November. The lovely Sara of Cake Over Steak has organized the soiree for a third year in a row!

Now you have everything you could ever need to make pumpkin anything. Is that your version of heaven too?

In the past I’ve made a sweet bread with a sugary glaze and a crazy-good pumpkin and cheese fondue…baked in a pumpkin. This year, I’m going all in on the fall vibes. Yeasted pumpkin rolls with dates, pecans, and golden raisins with a slow-cooker apple butter to go with. The rolls aren’t really pumpkin-in-your-face flavored. The pumpkin is a more subtle back note that rounds out nicely with the pecans and dried fruits. And that apple butter. A little looser than the store-bought stuff, but jam packed with apple-y goodness and all of the best fall spices.

It’s almost like I chose the best autumn activities—pumpkin patch frolicking and apple picking—and designed a post around them. Oh you caught that too huh? Let’s just say I wouldn’t deny that was a purposeful part of the blog master plan…

I also have it on good authority (i.e. myself) that these rolls make an excellent bread pudding, and this apple butter lends its spiced goodness to a hella-good old fashioned (recipe coming in the next couple of weeks!).

In the meantime, get these rolls in the oven and that apple butter cooking. Because your kitchen/apartment/house is about to be drool-worthy.

For the science-y bit, I’m throwing it back to last year’s pumpkin party post where we chatted about pumpkin varieties and how they’re cultivated. Because it’s all about the pumpkin, ammiright?

Pumpkins are a group of plants that branch off from the squash. They are the typical orange thick-shelled, pulpy, seedy, fleshy things we love to pick in the fall at the neighborhood pumpkin patch. Hay rides and all. Pumpkins are native to North America which explains why they’re so popular for capping off the annual Thanksgiving meal.

Fun fact: the orange color on the outside of the pumpkin is caused by carotenoid pigments!

Large pumpkins you carve for Halloween are selectively cultivated so that they are bigger which tends to yield pumpkins that harbor a bunch more water in their flesh. This makes them ideal for carving, but not the best flavor-producer for your fall treats.

Sugar pumpkins are smaller, about 6-8 inches in diameter. They have smoother, sweeter flesh because there is less water per square inch which concentrates the inherent flavor of the pumpkin. Additionally, because these pumpkins are used to produce sweet purees for pies and cakes, the sweeter sugar pumpkins can be selected for and cultivated. That is why you definitely want a sugar pumpkin for all of your from-scratch baking. But also a kick-butt cheese fondue stuffed roasted pumpkin! Nobody wants stringy, watery pumpkin treats.

Don’t forget to check out all the other pumpkin recipes at Sara’s round-up page for the virtual party! Pumpkin on.

Yeasted Pumpkin Rolls with Dates, Pecans, and Golden Raisins

This recipe uses INSTANT yeast which is different from active dry yeast. Instant yeast doesn’t need the hydration time to come alive like active dry yeast does. I’ve made this recipe using both types, and they can both work, though the active dry variety is a touch more work. See note at the bottom of the recipe for that instruction variation.

Adapted from Bread Toast Crumbs

Makes about 16 Rolls

¼ cup roughly chopped pecans, raw

1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin

¼ cup honey

1 ½ cups boiling water

4 cups (512g) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast

8 or 9 pitted Medjool dates, chopped into ¼-inch pieces

¼ cup golden raisins

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, toast the pecans, stirring for 5-7 minutes until toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, honey, and boiling water. Stir until smooth. Set aside until lukewarm, about 20 minutes. ***
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and instant yeast.*** Add the cooled pecan pieces, dates, and raisins. Toss to combine. Pour in the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine into a sticky dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 ½ hours or so until doubled in size. I like to leave mine in the oven (heat off) with the light on. You may only need an hour for this, you may need 2 hours. It all depends on the temperature in your kitchen.
  4. When your dough is risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 425⁰F (make sure you take you dough out if it was rising in there!). Grease a 12-cup standard muffin pan and an additional 4-6 ramekins. (If you have a tonnn of ramekins, make these in ramekins only! I actually like the rolls that come out of the ramekins better than the muffin cups. They have taller sides and seem to bake more evenly.)
  5. Using two forks, deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center. Rotate the bowl quarter turns as you deflate, turning the mass into a rough ball.
  6. Using the two forks, pull away portions of the dough and plop each into a greased muffin cup or ramekin so that you evenly divide the dough among the muffin tin and ramekins. I used 4 of the ramekins and found that was a great average fill.
  7. Let the dough rise in the tins for about 10 minutes or until it just crowns the tops of the cups. Bake on the middle rack in the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375⁰F and bake for 15-20 minutes more, until golden all around. Remove the rolls from the oven and turn them onto a cooling rack. Enjoy!

***If using active dry yeast, follow these instructions. Put the ¼ cup honey in a liquid measuring cup and fill to 1 cup with the boiling water. Add the rest of the water to the pumpkin puree and stir to combine. Stir the honey and water together. Wait for the mixture to cool until just warm to the touch—about 90⁰F. At that point, sprinkle the packet of active dry yeast over the top and agitate slightly to gently distribute. Wait 5ish minutes, and you should have a lot of foaming happening. It should smell very yeasty as well. Add this to the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine. Continue with the remainder of the recipe, omitting the instant yeast in the dry ingredients mixture step.

Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

Adapted from The Broad Fork

1 teaspoon citric acid powder or 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 ½ lbs apples

1 ¼ cup granulated sugar

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ tablespoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup non-alcoholic apple cider

  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water, and stir in the citric acid powder or lemon juice. Peel and core the apples and cut them into eighths. As you cut the pieces, drop them into the bowl of water. When all cut, drain the apple pieces and discard the water.
  2. Place the apple pieces in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Turn the slow cooker on high and cook for 1 hour. Then turn it to low and cook for about 6 hours, or until the apple butter is broken down and thickening. Stir regularly. I use an immersion blender near the end of the process just to make sure that everything is combined well and liquefied.
  3. Transfer the apple butter to a clean container and store in the fridge for a few weeks. Alternatively, you can hot-process the cans right away after cooking to preserve them. Those will keep for up to 10 months.




  1. I loved reading these little factoids about pumpkins! I used a sugar pumpkin for my Virtual Pumpkin Party recipe and it had a similar taste to butternut squash / sweet potato. Also, I LOVE that “Kiss the Cook” apron! So darn cute!

    • Kelsey
      October 23

      Thanks Sarah! Happy VPP!

  2. Everything here sounds absolutely delicious!! Love the combination of the rolls with the apple butter. Making my mouth water! xo

    • Kelsey
      October 23

      Thanks lady! xoxo

  3. October 24

    um, yes. pumpkin and dates and apple butter? I would have settled for just one of those but ALL THREE!?!?!?!

    • Kelsey
      October 25

      I couldn’t resist going all out! 😉 xoxo

  4. I’m pretty sure if you looked under the definition of fall, these would be there! They are the perfect combination of my favorite fall produce (and activities)!

    • Kelsey
      October 25

      Thanks Meg! That’s what I was going for :)

  5. When I was growing up, Kelsey, my mom used to always buy jar after jar of apple butter during visits to Amish country. I used to love slathering that stuff all over everything. It was so good…and since it tends to be sugar free (or lower in sugar). . .it’s way healthier than jelly. Loving that you made it in the slow cooker. I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at making a sugar free version (the hubby has given up sugar) as a treat.

    • Kelsey
      October 25

      I bet it would be rather good with no sugar! Though it would take longer to concentrate to the same thickness and flavor I think…Let me know if you try it Lynn! xoxo

  6. October 25

    These are my kind of rolls! Love that you made homemade apple butter too. This would be perfect on a chilly fall morning :)

    • Kelsey
      October 26

      Thanks Madeline :)

    • Kelsey
      October 26

      Aw so sweet! Thanks Emily! xoxo

    • Kelsey
      November 1

      Thanks Sabrina! :)

  7. These look like such a sweet, comforting snack. And I can’t wait for that old fashioned recipe!! Thanks for participating again this year. 😀 xoxo

    • Kelsey
      November 1

      It was such a fun party! Thanks for organizing :)

  8. November 5

    These sound incredible! And I love the idea of slow cooker apple butter — genius!

    • Kelsey
      November 6

      Thanks Sonja :)

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