Spiced Pumpkin Bread

November 19, 2011

Man, I love Thanksgiving! “Love” is an exaggeration. It’s an understatement, if anything. I love, love, LOVE opening my google reader and reading all the Thanksgiving recipes, drooling over photos, and scribbling down recipes, notes, and suggestions for Thanksgivings (and meals) to come. Most of the free mental space in my brain, in fact, is dedicated to thinking about Thanksgiving and food.

I have to laugh at myself here because it’s typical that, for the amount of time I spend thinking about Thanksgiving and for the amount of inspiration out there, I’ve done nothing in terms of choosing what recipes to use next week (I could feed off ideas forever; the “getting things done” part is always hardest for me). Thanksgiving is less than a week away, giving me a little bit of time, but if next week is anything like this week in terms of passing by WAY too quickly, then I’m in trouble!

So, even though spiced pumpkin bread isn’t really a Thanksgiving recipe, I felt compelled to make it and share it for a couple reasons. The first is that it’s full of pumpkin and makes your kitchen smell wonderful while it bakes. Second, it seems like a great addition to a post-Thanksgiving brunch spread! My family never did this, but I think I’m going to weasel the day-after brunch into my own Thanksgiving tradition. The bread is perfect, just another great recipe from America’s Test Kitchen! Good luck with your own Thanksgiving preparations!!!

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

(Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook)

Yields one 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf

Notes: I switched out the granulated sugar called for in the original recipe for honey, and, desirous of a less sweet finished product, added less sweetener than the original. I also threw in some ground flax seeds for good measure, but they are totally and completely optional.

Ingredients:

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

½ cup honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

Optional: 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

1. In a small or medium saucepan, cook pumpkin puree, honey, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg over medium high heat, stirring constantly for 5 to 7 minutes or until mixture is thick and glossy. Take off heat and cool. To hasten the cooling process, stir or whisk mixture vigorously for 5 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan, and place loaf pan on a baking sheet. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, ground flax seeds (if using), baking soda, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together cooled pumpkin mixture, butter, eggs, and vanilla.

4. Fold liquid ingredients into dry, taking care not to over mix. The batter will be thick.

5. Scrape batter evenly into prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Bake loaf 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with just a few crumbs attached, rotating loaf pan halfway through baking time.

6. Let loaf cool in pan 10 minutes before removing loaf and placing it on a cooling rack. Cool loaf at least one hour before serving.

Store loaf either covered tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days.

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Today feels a good day. To me, a good day doesn’t necessarily mean that everything goes my way, or that everything is perfect (and yes, I do have a mental hierarchy of what constitutes different days that could be considered “good,” yay for having a selectively analytical mind). This particular type of good day has nothing to do with anything other than me, sitting in my kitchen, and the space around me; everything seems beautiful and uniquely interesting. I find myself smiling at all the ingredients I’m using for breakfast, even though they are either splayed all over the cutting board or smeared on the counter, and being fascinated by the way my coffee swirls in its cup.

 On these days, I’m acutely aware of being human in the physical sense, and heartily enjoy the simple sensory pleasures one can very easily overlook. I just get so wrapped up in my head, what with being stressed about this and that, feeling bad about something that happened the night before, and missing people who live far away, but today I feel like I can be a girl in a kitchen, smelling her warm, delicious coffee and waiting for chocolate chip pumpkin squares to come out of the oven.

 These chocolate chip pumpkin squares, not quite blondies and not quite cake, are perfect for a good day like this because they are basically small squares of sensory overload. The squares smell like fall and brown sugar, look all orangey-pumpkin beautiful with melty chocolate chips, and, warm from the oven, melt in your mouth. I would even go so far as to say these chocolate chip pumpkin squares could turn a not-so good day around, because you can’t help but stop, smell the roses, and enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Squares

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)

Yields about 24 squares in a 9 by 13 inch pan

Notes: The original recipe calls for all-purpose instead of cake flour and granulated sugar instead of brown sugar, but I love the fine crumb of cake flour and the slight hint of molasses that come together in the finished product. Come next time, I might sprinkle chopped walnuts over the top before baking.

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup, or 2 sticks, unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 1/2 to 2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9 by 13 inch pan with parchment or greased foil, leaving a few inches overhang to pull bars out of pan once baked.

2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, and then mix until smooth.

4. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir just until all streaks of flour disappear, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan while stirring. Stir in chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.

5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

6. Let pumpkin squares cool completely in pan before lifting out and cutting into individual squares.

Bars can be kept at room temperature, in an airtight container, up to 3 days.

Yesterday, coconut bread with mango butter counteract with the rain and cold. Today, for Breakfast Tuesday, pumpkin waffles to “welcome” spring, along with a 60 degree day! Sounds a little backwards, but I’m totally digging it.

This is another recipe I’m considering in my hunt for a great, reliable waffle recipe that is both unique and easy enough to WANT to prepare on a lazy morning. I realize pumpkin is out of season but I love it. And lots of other people love it. Just because pumpkin is most prevalent in the fall doesn’t mean you can’t eat it all year! Right? The thing I love most about these waffles is that, as my roommate and fellow food enthusiast puts it, “they taste like pumpkin pie!”

Pumpkin Waffles

(Recipe adapted from Allrecipes)

Yields 6 waffles in a Belgian waffle maker

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup light brown sugar, packed (1/3 cup if you plan on using syrup or sweet topping)

1 cup canned pumpkin

2 cups milk

4 eggs, separated

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

Method:

1. Preheat waffle iron.

2. In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together pumpkin, milk, and yolks. Set aside.

4. Whip egg whites until medium stiff peaks form.

5. Stir flour mixture and butter into pumpkin mixture, stirring until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1/3 of the whites until incorporated. Gently fold in remaining whites, taking care not to over mix.

6. Cook waffles according to waffle maker’s instructions.

Serve waffles immediately. If you’ll eat them within two or three days, you can refrigerate them up to a week in an airtight container. Waffles also freeze well; lay them out on a baking sheet and freeze for an hour before moving them to an airtight container or plastic wrap. Freeze up to a month.

My roommates walked into the kitchen as I was preparing the dough for these cookies, and one asked me what I was making. When I responded with “pumpkin oatmeal cookies from Isa!”, she paused to think, and replied, “You just made these cookies a few weeks ago! What are you doing?!”. My first thought was something along the lines of “Oh no! There are so many things I have yet to try and I’m repeating recipes again?!”, and my roommates are probably sick to death of hearing about all the wonderful recipes I collect and read. It bothered me, until I thought about why I chose to make these particular cookies tonight. Firstly, I wanted to make something vegan, and turned to Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and stopped at these cookies. Stopped cold; I didn’t turn another page. There must be something about these cookies that makes me stop at them, and make them, without giving a thought to how many times I’ve made them before, or what would please people around me. That something is lurve, I believe. It’s the kind of love that makes you selfish, because you can only concentrate on your desires related to the object of affection. I might just be confusing love and lust. In any case, this love has definitely caught me by surprise, because I never really pegged myself for having a “favorite cookie”. You learn something new about yourself every day. Truth.

Last time I made them, I had to omit the walnuts and raisins due to a tighter budget, and therefore was only able to add the craisins I happened to have lying around the pantry. This time, I went a little crazy, adding both the walnuts and the raisins. I’m a walnut fiend, so the finely chopped nuts in these cookies adds a fantastic depth and makes them seem… more structurally sound? Scientifically, it probably doesn’t make much sense, but that’s exactly how it seems to me. For those who don’t prefer nuts in their cookies, since the nuts are finely chopped their presence isn’t overwhelming at all. I also added a half teaspoon of birch beer extract to see what that would do to the taste. It

wasn’t until a day after making them did I notice the birch beer extract in the cookie. My co-workers didn’t recognize the cookie, even after having it such a short time ago, so maybe that’s because of the extract? Part of me thinks that, and the other part can’t help thinking they didn’t recognize them because they are so yummy. That must be it.

Because I can’t avoid repeating it, I have to profess my love for Isa. You need to bake and cook from her recipes. Truth.

 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

(Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance)

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/3 cup traditional oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cups canola oil

2 tablespoons molasses

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used ½ teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon birch beer extract)

(I tablespoon ground flaxseeds, optional)

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup raisins

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and prepare your cookie sheets either by greasing them or using parchment paper.

2. Mix together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and spices.

3. In another bowl, mix the sugar, oil, molasses, pumpkin, and vanilla (also add the flaxseeds at this point, if you decide to use them) until well combined.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, and fold to combine.

5. Fold in the raisins and the walnuts.

6. Drop the cookies onto the prepared cookie sheets, with about an inch between the cookies. Make sure you mold the cookies to look how you want them to turn out, before putting them in the oven. You can do so with a spoon, or get a lil’ messy and use your fingers.

7. Bake for 15-16 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets in the oven if you are baking two sheets at a time.

8. When you remove the cookies from the oven, cool them for two minutes on the sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

The cookies taste great right out of the oven, but if you let them set, and cool off a bit, the cookie acquires a kind of hearty, more chewy texture. Right out of the oven the cookies are more cake-y, but still delectable.