Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

Only a week until the biggest food holiday of the year.  Searching for a good recipe for the showcase of the meal (turkey and gravy)?  That will get you started.  As will this bread, starting your morning by breaking your nightly fast.  

Holidays bring tradition.  The same day off of work every year so Mom and I can roast turkey wings and make stock for the gravy.  The gravy boat that gets used once a year.  The tablecloth that gets used once a year.  The kids making place cards that resemble little turkeys that were raised on Three Mile Island.  The donation we make to our local food pantry.  Back in the day we would always pile in the car and go cut down our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  The leftover cold turkey sammiches with mayo and a lot of black pepper.  That's tradition.  Another Thanksgiving tradition that I look forward to? The James Bond marathon on TBS.  Even though I've seen them all, and including commercials each movie is like seven hours long, but they're still awesome.  Fifty years and going strong, and I can't wait to see Skyfall.  Daniel Craig is a badass 007! Connery will always be the classic favorite, but Craig is pretty damn good.

This pumpkin bread can be thoroughly enjoyed at any time of day.  You can eat it at room temp or warmed up a bit with a slab of butter melting on top- which is how I should have taken the photo, but time didn't allow for that.  It's quick to put this together, and super tasty.  I prefer a thick slice for breakfast with a mug of hot beverage.

I like to borrow techniques from Cook's Illustrated, because they know what the hell they're doing.  Hours and hours and hours in the kitchen testing and testing and testing recipes allows them to be the 007 of cooking knowledge.  You don't argue with that.  In this recipe, their guidance states to cook canned pumpkin a bit with some typical pumpkin pie spices.  This lovely advice not only intensifies the flavors by caramelizing the sugars, it removes that annoying tinny aluminum taste you sometimes find in canned goods.

This recipe makes two loaves, if you don't have two 8.5" X 4.5" pans, use the second half of the batter to make pumpkin muffins, as I did.  Cooking time for the muffins around 20 minutes, until toothpick comes clean.  I recommend procuring the best baking spices you can get from a fine purveyor such as this place or this establishment.

This recipe illustrates the need to always read the damn thing thoroughly before you begin- some ingredients need time to warm up, some need to be heated to bring out flavors, etc.

Pumpkin Bread
makes 2 loaves

5 TB light brown sugar, packed of course
1 TB AP flour
1 TB unsalted butter, softened
1 ts ground cinnamon
1/4 ts kosher salt

2 C (10 ounces) AP flour, measuring by weight always recommended
1.5 ts baking powder
1/2 ts baking soda
15 oz can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 ts kosher salt
1.5 ts ground cinnamon
1/4 ts ground nutmeg
1/8 ts ground cloves
1 C granulated white sugar
1 C light brown sugar, packed of course
1/2 C vegetable or canola oil
4 oz cream cheese, diced while cold and then softened
1/4 C buttermilk
1 C walnuts, toasted and chopped fine

For the topping-
Add all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix with your fingers until resembling wet sand, set aside.

For the bread-
Fire up the oven to 350F, rack in the middle.  Grease two 8.5" X 4.5" loaf pans.  Whisk the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the pumpkin puree and salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Cook until reduced to about 1.5 C, stirring almost constantly to avoid burning, about 6 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the white and brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese.  Stir until combined, let sit for a couple minutes to allow the heat to melt the cream cheese, then stir until thoroughly combined with no visible pieces of cream cheese.

Whisk together the eggs and buttermilk, then add this to the pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.  Fold in the flour mixture, small lumps are okay, don't hurt yourself.  Fold in the walnuts last. 

Pour/scrape half of the batter into each loaf pan, or one loaf pan and a muffin pan, or make one loaf at a time.  Sprinkle the topping over batter evenly.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle come out clean.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Let cool for at least 2 hours, then enjoy.  The bread loaf and muffins will last a few days at room temp, and will also freeze well.   

 Life moves fast.  So then must the seasons.  I still have green tomatoes from the garden on the counter, while winter's first flurries lay a thin blanket of white on the coldest surfaces they can find.  Happy Thanksgiving y'all.  I'm sure you won't have to look far to find something to be thankful for. 

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