Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

I know that I have been a neglectful blogger lately, but with work and the holidays and all it's been a bit hard. But I'm not here to make excuses. I'm here to tell you, or at least to strongly suggest that you make this pumpkin bread. Why? Because the season for pumpkin bread is here, and with fall nothing more than a not-so-distant memory at this point, it won't be here for much longer. And because it's so easy that I feel like a fool for not having made it before. It's a great cold-weather alternative to banana bread, and takes arguably even less effort to make, considering the pumpkin is already pureed for you (if you choose to go the canned pumpkin route, which I did, and why not?).

This pumpkin bread is so quick to put together that you really don't need to plan ahead much at all for it. If you get a hankering for warm autumnal scents permeating your home, this bread can be whipped up in ten minutes flat. You'll be rewarded for your ten minutes effort with a moist, warm, deeply flavored bread that will make you feel at home, no matter where you are.

Sure, pumpkin bread (much like banana bread) is nothing more than cake-in-bread's-clothing, but on a chilly winter's morning, there's no need to justify thinly-veiled cake for breakfast. Faintly sweet, wonderfully, but not overwhelmingly spicy, it's the type of bread that vanishes faster than you'd ever think possible.

Pumpkin Bread

adapted from this recipe from King Arthur Flour

This recipe makes a couple of loaves, which is convenient for those times when you want to leave a loaf with your parents and take another loaf to a lovely holiday brunch.

I found the chocolate chips to be a little bit overwhelming in the amounts originally called for in the recipe, since their strong flavor overpowered the subtly spiced bread at times. I think a better move is to add more nuts than chocolate, which I've reflected in the recipe below. The bread would be great without any chocolate at all as well, since it's sweet enough and rich enough without it.

1 cup vegetable oil
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup pecans (can substitute walnuts), toasted and cooled, chopped
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together the oil and sugar. Beat in eggs, pureed pumpkin and water. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the oil and sugar, stirring to blend, then mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Spoon the batter evenly into two lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Bake the bread for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of loaf comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then remove the bread from the loaf pans and cool bread on wire rack. When it's completely cool, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and store it overnight before serving, which, difficult as it may be, really allows the flavors to deepen and is really worth it.

[Note: the recipe includes an optional glaze, but I don't really see any reason for it. Sure, for presentation's sake it gives it a bit of a 'wow' element, but the bread is sweet enough as is, and I just don't see the icing as a worthwhile addition. However, should you wish to drizzle some atop (just don't go overboard), whisk together a cup of confectioner's sugar, 2 tablespoons of melted butter and a tablespoon of milk, and drizzle atop the bread just before serving.]