Sunday, October 07, 2007

Squash for dessert

That's essentially what you get with pumpkin sweets. And while I can't say I love squash across the board (grilled zucchini being a notable exception), pumpkin makes me indescribably happy. For one thing, it's a sure sign that - no matter what the thermometer says - it's autumn, and autumn is my favorite season.

For another thing, pumpkin is damn tasty, almost no matter what you do with it. A lot of folks are all about pumpkin pie; I admit that this most classic of applications is a great one, but not my favorite by far - I'm just not as much of a pie person. Culinarily speaking, the big orange gourd is a fantastic chameleon (witness Central Market's pumpkin polenta)...but what's more wholesome, and more satisfying, than a dense, spicy quick bread?

Very little, I can tell you. Especially when you take this purist recipe and use it to make autumn magic. At some point in the last 5-7 years (Caety, do you remember if that's right? It's at least 5, anyway...), I went digging for something simple; much as I love Alton Brown, shredded fresh pumpkin was a bit too much work for me,* so I went with something more basic.

I confess that mine isn't drastically different from the original, but over time and (much) repetition, plus a few disasters and several near misses, I've gotten it down to a science. Or brass tacks. Or something like that.

And away we go...sorry, no photos - I got ahead of myself and forgot to take any this time. Maybe later this week, when I'm at it again.

Plum Texan's Legendary Pumpkin Bread
(with credit to Cathy Lowe for the basis)

- 3 loaf pans, 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches. NEVER, never use dark non-stick; I've had perfect results from disposable aluminum pans, and those are cheap, if you need them.
- If you're using silicone or disposable aluminum pans, you'll want a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan to stabilize them.
- 1 large mixing bowl, 4 quarts minimum, for the mixing. My favorite is an IKEA stainless steel, but porcelain and Pyrex are completely respectable.
- 1 medium bowl, 2 quarts minimum, for the dry ingredients.
- 1 medium bowl, for lightly beating eggs before adding.
- Measuring cups and spoons as needed. A gradiated one-cup, handled half-cup, and a teaspoon will cover you in a pinch.
- Rubber or silicone spatula for scraping down sides of mixing bowl.
- Mixer of your choice. Your KitchenAid is perfect for this, but I personally love using my electric hand mixer.
- Wire cooling racks.
- Enough butter/Pam/shortening and flour to get the pans ready.

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs (large or extra-large)
16 ounces canned unsweetened pumpkin
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (preferably King Arthur)
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-fine salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 to 4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
2/3 cup 2% milk

Place oven rack at center level and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour loaf pans. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl.

Stir together sugar and oil in large mixing bowl. Beat eggs lightly in separate bowl, then stir in eggs and pumpkin. When first four ingredients are combined, blend dry ingredients and milk into wet mixture, alternating. Scrape down bowl sides occasionally.

Divide batter evenly between the three loaf pans (if you're measuring, it's about 2 1/2 cups each). Spread lightly to make sure the tops are even and no large bubbles have formed.

Set a timer for 30 minutes to start. After 30 minutes, rotate pans 180 degrees, and rearrange. Continue baking until cake tester comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven to cooling rack and let stand 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool loaves on rack.

And, of course, enjoy thoroughly. My stepdad loves to put slices in the toaster oven and then butter them; I've added sweetened cream cheese a few times, which I must say is my personal favorite. And this is one of those creations that's even better the second day...dense, moist, and full of warm autumn flavor.

Yep, I know it's cheesy. It's also true.

I'd love to hear how the Legendary Pumpkin Bread goes for you, should you try it. Give me a shout anytime. And stay tuned for more baked goodies. Coming up next, baking-post-wise: MomDK's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and a remembrance. (Bring Kleenex. I know I will.)

Also, if anyone was still wondering, the Forest Canopy is definitely going to Grandma. I can always make myself another, and it just seems right.

*Perhaps not forever, though; I may actually try adorable AB's recipe at some point this year.


Caety said...

Hrm. We were living on Westpark, so... yep, about 5 years ago. That sounds right, and anything longer than that sounds too long.

Anonymous said...

I love pumpkin in well everything! I will have to try out your pumpkin bread recipe. yum!

Laura said...

Good heavens! There's WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR in that?! Normally I hate dessert things made with whole wheat flour (it has a sharpness that I don't like), but you're bread is most awesome!

Meredith said...

Yay, you posted the recipe! Thanks.