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.
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
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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.