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Maple-pumpkin dinner rolls are a healthy treat

Warm, fresh rolls improve nearly any meal, which can make it awfully tempting to grab some at the grocer.

That is, until you look at the label and see all the mysterious, unpronounceable ingredients.

Fortunately, baking dinner rolls at home doesn't have to be a chore. And besides knowing every ingredient that goes into the dough, you also get the joy of filling your home with the aroma of freshly baked bread.

This recipe for maple-pumpkin dinner rolls is easily prepared in any moderate to large food processor, though you also can make the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook or by hand.

The rolls bake up moist and tender, though the recipes calls for minimal added fat. Canned, unseasoned pumpkin puree adds plenty of moisture, along with autumnal flavor and beautiful color.

Maple syrup, rather than refined sugars, gives the rolls a delicate, earthy sweetness. For the best flavor, use dark B grade maple syrup. In a pinch, you can substitute an equal amount of dark brown sugar for the syrup.

These rolls are best served hot from the oven, but you also can let them cool for reheating in a 350 F oven for 5 to 8 minutes when needed.

Or freeze in a zip-close plastic bags for up to two months. Reheat wrapped in foil in a 350 F oven.

The rolls are delicious on their own but are quite nice served with apple butter or a spoonful of cranberry sauce. In the unlikely event that you have any leftover, they make an excellent base for a mini ham sandwich spiked with a grainy country-style mustard.

SideBar: Maple-Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Start to finish: 1 hour 35 minutes (20 minutes active)

Makes 16 rolls

21⁄2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1⁄2 cup cornmeal, plus additional for dusting rolls

21⁄4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast

11⁄2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter

3⁄4 cup canned pumpkin puree (nothing added)

3⁄4 cup milk, plus additional for brushing the rolls

1⁄4 cup pure maple syrup

In a food processor, combine 2 cups of the flour, the cornmeal, yeast and salt. Pulse to combine. Alternatively, in a medium bowl, whisk the ingredients together then proceed with the recipe using a stand mixer.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the pumpkin puree, 3⁄4 cup milk and maple syrup. Stir over low heat just until very warm, about 120 F to 130 F on an instant-read thermometer.

Add the warm pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and process or mix until thoroughly combined. Pulse or mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft, sticky dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl.

If using a processor, process for 2 minutes to knead. If using a stand mixer, knead with a dough hook for about 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes.

Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. Uncover the dough and cut it into 16 equal pieces. In the palm of your hands, roll each piece into a smooth round ball.

Set the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets and cover them loosely with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 11⁄2 hours.

Near the end of the rising time, place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 F. Brush the tops of the rolls with milk and sprinkle with a dusting of.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until browned. Serve warm, or let cool and reheat before serving.

Nutrition information per roll: 125 calories; 2 g fat

(1 g saturated); 5 mg cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber; 222 mg sodium.