Monday, October 12, 2015

Plain Old Pumpkin Bread

This past week I made my first loaf of pumpkin bread for the season.  In a world of pumpkin-spiced beer...  pumpkin-spiced M&M's...  pumpkin-spiced lattes...  and etc., plain old pumpkin bread is a relief.  It is so ordinary and simple that anyone can make it...and I am convinced that its nostalgic sweetness and spice are the qualities that the pumpkin spice-food makers of the world are trying to emulate. 

From now through the end of the winter months I will almost always have a few slices tucked away in the freezer (for breakfast...or a snack)...along with a loaf or two to give as impromptu gifts.  I have had more than one recipient tell me that it is the best pumpkin bread they have ever had. 

My recipe is not fancy.  In terms of the major ingredients and mixing method, it probably varies only slightly from many recipes you will find.  I have tweaked it so much over the years that at this point I am not sure of its origins.  I do know that as far as the spices are concerned, I have adopted the blend used in the version they make at The Merc in Lawrence, where I teach. 

Pumpkin spice typically includes some permutation of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves....cinnamon and ginger being the most commonly included.  The loaf from The Merc is heavy handed on the nutmeg...and I love it.   But you should of course feel free to reduce it if it is too strong for you.  Also included in The Merc's loaf are a moderate amount of cinnamon and a relatively large quantity of cloves.  Clove is another spice that I love, and it is almost always added in sparing pinches and other measly measures.  Allspice and ginger have been left out entirely.  The omission of ginger might seem strange to some, but it pleases me since it is my least favorite of the typical pumpkin spices.

I had never intended to post this recipe.  After all, there are few things more common than a recipe for old-fashioned pumpkin probably already have a favorite of your own.  But as I have been enjoying this first loaf of the season, I realized that this is part of what this blog is for me:  a place where I can share with as many people as possible the foods that I love—be they fancy or plain, complicated or simple. If you don't have a recipe for pumpkin bread that you love, I hope you will give this one a try...and I hope that you love it as much as I do. 

Pumpkin Bread

3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (425g)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 to 2 t. nutmeg
3/4 t. cloves
1 15 oz. (425g) can solid pack pumpkin (1 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 c. sugar (500g)
1/2 c. water
1 c. vegetable oil (215g)
4 eggs
Turbinado sugar, optional

Combine the first six ingredients and set aside.

Whisk the pumpkin, sugar and water together until smooth.  Add the oil in a steady stream while whisking constantly.  The mixture should emulsify and thicken slightly.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time, adding each successive egg after the previous has been fully incorporated.  Fold in the dry ingredients—mixing just until well combined.

Turn the batter into two greased & floured loaf pans.  If desired, sprinkle the loaves generously with turbinado (or other coarse) sugar.  Bake at 350° (325° if using Pyrex pans) until a skewer comes out clean—about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Turn the loaves out onto a rack and cool completely.

Note:  You may use either 6 or 8 cup loaf pans.  A 6 cup pan will give you a tall, peaked loaf.  An 8 cup will produce a low, gently mounded loaf.  The loaf in the pictures was baked in an 8 cup pan.


A Sunflower Life said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. In the world of blogging where posts are often of recipes with many, many ingredients, it is nice to see one that goes back to the basics. A well-done, simple recipe spans generations. This one looks like a keeper!

Paige said...

Thank you Linda! I hesitated to post it...but I love it...and I think it's definitely a keeper!

Cecilia said...

Hi Paige! I always go to your recipes and techniques when I need help! Today my daughter related a pumpkin bread disaster. She had a recipe from her CSA for Honey Hazelnut Pumpkin Bread using a pumpkin from the farm. After following the recipe and cooking the bread for 1 hour 45 minutes it still came out like runny jell-o. It used a lot of expensive ingredients and it was a complete loss. I have already sent her your wonderful primer on pumpkin puree which will help immensely. Now I am looking at your pumpkin bread recipe. Do you think substituting a nut oil would be a straight forward change to make? What about using honey instead of sugar? It seems as though that would change the liquid balance too much and might not make a significant contribution to the flavors? The recipe title sounded wonderful and I think with some more information could be fall favorite for her family. Thank you for your help as always!

Paige said...

Hi Cecilia,

I'm so happy to hear that you find my blog to be so helpful! Thanks for letting me know.

As for the substitutions: I think the nut oil substitution could probably be made successfully. I don't typically bake with nut oils, but I successfully substitute olive oil in a lot of my vegetable oil baked goods. I have noticed that sometimes things get a bit darker...but generally like the change (at least in strongly flavored/spiced recipes--olive oil has a distinct taste that would overwhelm a delicately flavored recipe).

You would definitely not be able to make a straight honey for sugar substitution. Your observation about the liquid is correct. Honey is about 20% water. Honey is also acidic (moreso than sugar) and baked goods with honey typically contain extra baking soda to neutralize this extra acidity. I suspect the fact that your daughter's loaf never set properly had something to do with ph...maybe too much baking soda? Not enough acidity causes a batter to not set (or remain pudding-like). Finally honey is much sweeter than sugar. A cup of sugar has 200 grams sugars...a cup of honey has about 275 grams of sugars. So a conversion would involve a reduction in the volume of honey...a reduction in the existing liquids...and an addition of baking soda. There are lots of sites on line that give calculations on how to substitute honey for sugar (a Google search on "substituting honey for sugar in baked goods" will yield a ton of results--I think The Kitchn has a post...).

I hope this helps. I think roasting and drying the fresh pumpkin properly will help a lot in the result your daughter gets with the recipe she used.