Pursuit of the Perfect Traditional Pumpkin Bread


On a recent visit to a small farmer's market in town, my husband's eyes lit up to a glorious orange row of pumpkin breads, and instantly sweet memories of spiced aromas emanating from his mother's kitchen were inspired. Excitedly he picked up two loaves, hurried home, cut off a slice and with much anticipation he took a hefty bite. Memories of the warm, moist, pumpkiny, spicy bread were quickly siphoned as disappointment fell across his face. So dry was the bread that he wondered whether it was stale, and the pumpkin was so indiscernible that it could have passed as zucchini bread. 


Haverford, PA

So jumpstarted my mission to find a good pumpkin bread recipe. As I found out over the last few weeks finding a good pumpkin bread recipe is a bit more involved than I originally thought. In harried times like these, my habit is to turn to one of my most trusted sources for testing all permutations of a recipe: Cook's Illustrated. Their parameters for an ideal pumpkin bread was one with: 1) amplified pumpkin flavors, 2) is moist with a tight crumb, and 3) made with a light hand when approaching the spice drawer.

Red Kuri Pumpkin

Testing 1, 2, 3 ...

They tested fresh pumpkin, canned pumpkin or canned pumpkin pie filling. They tested flours, fats and sugars. They tediously tested ratios for baking powder and baking soda, and then meticulously experimented with proportions of spices before settling on their final recipe.

Perhaps most interesting part about the recipe is their technique of wicking away excess moisture from the pumpkin puree, a step that condenses the flavor and improves the texture of the bread. The technique calls for lining a baking sheet with three sheets of paper towels, spreading the pumpkin on top and then covering it with three more sheets. It takes just some light, even pressure and a few seconds before the paper towel has absorbed the moisture. As you can see from the picture below, the step is not as messy as it may sound.


This recipe results in a hearty loaf of pumpkin bread that is nothing less than superb, and is made even better with a light spread of cream cheese.

Since we are now officially counting down the days until T-day this week, I'd like to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a safe and delicious holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Traditional Pumpkin Bread
Slightly Adapted from Cooks Illustrated via The Milford Daily News
Ingredients
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin (do not use canned pumpkin that includes spices or sweetening)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional, my addition)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional, my addition)
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds (optional, my addition)
Method
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust a rack to the center position. Grease a 1-pound loaf pan (9-by-5 inches), line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the parchment.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin on paper towels in an even layer and top with a triple layer of paper towels. Press gently on towels until they are saturated with liquid. Remove top layer. Grab bottom towels at two corners and fold in half, enclosing the pumpkin. Lift off top portion of towels, and transfer drained pumpkin to a medium mixing bowl, discarding towels.
  3. Place flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla to the drained pumpkin and whisk together until well mixed and smooth. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and, using a spatula, fold together until almost combined. Sprinkle in the walnuts, raisins and flax seeds, if using, until just combined. Take care not to over-mix as this will lead to a tough bread.Transfer to prepared pan and bake until the top is browned and a tester comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, turn out and cool on rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes one loaf.

37 comments:

Gloria said...

Christine this look delicious and beauty:)

Belinda @zomppa said...

That is one good looking, perfect bread.

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

How nice of you to make a beautiful loaf of pumpkin bread for your hubby!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Leave it to Cooks Illustrated to uncover all of the issues surrounding pumpkin bread! The "moisture" photo is a revelation. This explains why yesterday's pumpkin cake fell apart - too watery.

SassyModernMom said...

How wonderful!!!

Lisa Stowe said...

Christine - I love pumpkin and winter squashes! Right now, I am in search of the most flavorful low-fat pumpkin pie recipe. I have a great recipe that adapted a bit to use fresh pumpkin, and the filling is wonderful. I roasted a pie pumpkin tonight for test #2. Now to learn how to make a good flaky crust. Hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Barbara said...

Lovely bread, Christine!
(I saw someone on TV recently spread out their pumpkin on a baking sheet and bake it to remove the liquid.)
Happy Thanksgiving!

thechurchcook said...

Looks so delicious, Christine!! And have a wonderful Thanksgiving! A big hug and a kiss to our little "Pumpkin"!

Heavenly Housewife said...

Perfectly lovely, a great addition to any Thanksgiving table, that's for sure! Wishing you and your family a marvellous Thanksgiving. May you always have much to be thankful for!
*kisses* HH

Mari @ Mari's Cakes said...

Delicious bread recipe, perfect for breakfast or gift to friends and family. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Hugs

sally said...

Wow! I'm impressed--this looks like one great loaf of pumpkin bread!

tasteofbeirut said...

I think that moistness comes from an adequate amount of fat as well; this recipe sounds excellent and I will try it asap.

lisa is cooking said...

When I was a student, pumpkin bread was my favorite treat with a jolt of caffeine at a cafe on campus. I miss it! I should make it at home now. Thanks for a great recipe to do just that.

Megan said...

It sounds like I will have to give this recipe a try! And I can vouch for all the testing Cook's does now that I see it in person on a daily basis!

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Claudia said...

You are blessed with perfect timing. My mission tomorrow a.m. was to find a good pumpkin bread recipe - just because. It's like a Thanksgiving gift and I thank-you and will do this - including laying out the puree to get rid of excess moisture! I hope you have the best Thanksgiving with a table laden with graces and love.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I can't imagine anything worse than dry pumpkin bread. You loaves look wonderful! Great recipe - a keeper.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Christine. A wonderful first with that beautiful boy ;)

Kayleigh said...

Looks DELICIOUS! I'm gonna try that for the holidays! Thanks for the inspiration, dear :)

xoxo,
Kayleigh

Check out the delicious muffins I made at www.o-kayleigh.blogspot.com

kitchen Butterfly said...

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving...full of lots to eat, drink and packed with love!

lostpastremembered said...

I was taught a similar technique by a lovely farmer's wife years ago... it involved a giant strainer and a few changes of paper towels but worked like a charm with my baked homegrown pumpkins... froze the result. I think you did pumpkin bread proud with this recipe. Happy holiday to you and yours!

Elizabeth said...

yum

Chiara said...

Looks so delicious, Christine! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Dana said...

I just started following your blog! I recently started blogging and adding recipes that I've came across that are delicious! Feel free to check it out!

Thanks,
Dana
http://completingourfamily4.blogspot.com/

Claudia said...

I made this for the family to pick on while I was cooking Thanksgiving morning. Oh my goodness - I'll never use another pumpkin bread recipe again! It was all you promised and more!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

The technique of wicking away the moisture was so helpful to me. I had made fresh pumpkin and frozen it, and when defrost, it was very wet. This step worked perfectly, and got the me the consistency I needed for the pie filling.

Maria @ Orchard Bloom said...

Sounds like a great recipe, gonna give it a go.

Rona said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog!

This pumpkin bread looks delicious! It is challenging to make really moist bread and I am happy that you succeeded!

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

I love pumpkin bread! The flax seed addition is great!

Vianney Rodriguez said...

Cooks Illustrated never lets me down, so glad you found a great recipe!! I hop eyour family had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

El said...

I love your neighborhood. The pumpkin looks lovely and the recipe---divine. Hope you had a great first Thanksgiving with Andrew.

El said...

Gah- I meant Alex! My hair stylist is Andrew!

nancy at good food matters said...

I like your additions:raisins, walnuts, flax seed, to give the bread a little more interest. Thanks for researching---I've had those dry pumpkin breads before too!

Hope that you've had a nice Thanksgiving---now it's a headlong rush into the holidays!

Emily said...

this looks like a winning pumpkin bread recipe. i agree..having an emphasized pumpkin flavor is of utmost importance!

kitchen Butterfly said...

Oh, poor hubby. Glad you remedied things with a tried and tested method. It looks wonderful....

Magic of Spice said...

Oh goodness...I can smell this here! I adore pumpkin bread and yours does look perfect :)

Jamie said...

Beautiful photos. I haven't made my own pumpkin bread recipe for years and years, and staring at your perfect, gorgeous loaf now has me craving.

Esme said...

Christine, I made this bread and you are right, unbelievably moist.

DeskSnacker said...

I spent the whole weekend making mini loaves of banana bread for Christmas deliveries. Mmm, a good pumpkin sounds delightful!