These delicious pumpkin sage challah rolls, made partially with whole-wheat flour, are a wholesome and flavorful twist on classic challah. Light and tender, these rolls are a great as a side dish or used as buns for your favorite sandwich.
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 packages active dry yeast
¼ cup sugar (1⅝ ounces), divided
1 cup canned pumpkin (8¾ ounces)
2 large eggs + 1 egg for egg wash
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups all purpose flour (12½ ounces) + more for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (3½ ounces)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
1–2 tablespoon raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1½ teaspoon white sesame seeds
Combine water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a wooden spoon; let stand until foamy, 5–10 minutes.
Whisk together remaining sugar, pumpkin, 2 eggs, yolk, and oil then whisk into yeast mixture.
In a separate bowl whisk together flours, sage, salt, and nutmeg.
Fit stand mixer with the dough hook and slowly add flour, mixing on low speed, 1 cup at a time, until all the flour is incorporated into dough.
Increase speed to medium and knead 10 minutes, adding 1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour at a time as needed (no more than 12 teaspoons which is a ¼ cup) to help dough from sticking to sides of bowl.
Using a wooden spoon, turn dough out onto a lightly greased surface and form into a ball. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, let rise 1 hour then punch down, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 hour more.
Heat oven to 350° with racks set in upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide dough into 16 equal pieces (for the best results weigh dough as a whole, divide weight by 16 and portion rolls out to all measure the same. I had 2-ounce dough balls).
Roll a dough ball into a 10-inch rope, tie like a knot, lightly tug bottom tail end up and around side of knot and down through center, then lightly tug top tail end down and around side of knot and up through center. Repeat rolling and tying with remaining dough balls.
Transfer dough knots to prepared baking sheets, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until risen by half their size, are puffy, and slightly spring back, leaving an indentation, when poked with a knuckle, about 35 minutes.
Whisk together 1 egg and 2 tablespoons water for the egg wash. Brush rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with pepitas and sesame seeds.
Bake rolls until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer (such as the Thermapen from ThermoWorks) inserted in the center registers 200°, rotating pans halfway through, 22–26 minutes. (Rolls should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.)
Let rolls cool on baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely or serve right away with softened butter and warm honey.