Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Spicing it up.
I've always really wanted to love pumpkin bread. In theory, it should be an easy thing for me to do. I'm a big fan of the pound cake/quick bread genre, and I really love pumpkin-spiked baked goods, particularly scones and pie. It should be an easy sell. But, in my experience, most recipes for pumpkin bread result in overly-sweet, overly-oily, cloying messes of a loaf.
This year, I decided to take charge of the pumpkin loaf. No longer would I be a slave to such sub-par use of one of nature's most delicious ingredients. It was time for a revolution.
As a starting point, I used this recipe from Bon Appétit. I'd tried it before, and been pleased with the texture, but disappointed in the flavor. It was too sweet and not nearly spicy enough. After all, what is the point of baking with pumpkin if you're not going to exercise a moderately heavy hand with the ginger, cloves and cinnamon? What is autumn if not an excuse to clear out the spice cabinet?
And so I got to work. Out went one of the three cups of sugar, and, for good measure, I swapped one of the remaining two for half a cup each of dark and light brown sugar. After all, pumpkin and molasses (the "brown" in brown sugar) play pretty well together. In went extra cinnamon and cloves, freshly grated nutmeg stood in for the powdered stuff, and ginger was added to the mix.
The result is a pumpkin loaf that - I think - successfully bridges the gap between pumpkin bread and gingerbread. It's spicy and just a bit sweet, moist and fragrant. It made my apartment smell heavenly for days, and if you make it in these adorable little mini loaf pans, it just might be the best host or hostess gift the holiday season ever saw. Except for a bottle of bourbon.
Spiced Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Butter for greasing the pans
3 cups all purpose flour, plus a bit for flouring the pans
2 tsp. ground cloves
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 16-ounce can of pure, pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour two standard, 9x5x3 inch size (or four mini) loaf pans. If using mini loaf pans, place them on a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, spices, baking soda and baking powder. Stir the salt in with a fork. In another large bowl, mix together the sugars and oils, then add the eggs, pumpkin and vanilla. If you have any lumps from the brown sugars, use a large whisk to help dissolve them into the mixture.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in two additions, mixing well with a spatula or wooden spoon after each. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, then place in the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the cakes comes out clean - about an hour for mini loaves, and 70 minutes for the larger loaves. I'd also recommend rotating the loaves about halfway through baking - spinning them front to back and switching baking racks, if you're using two.
Cool in the pans for about 30 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edges of the loaves. Invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Eat immediately or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to four days.
Makes two standard loaves or four mini loaves.