I thought it would be nice to share some holiday appropriate recipes in the upcoming weeks. You know, those recipes full of warmth and comfort that often only get made once a year.
So, here's my first Good For the Holidays Recipe: Pumpkin Bread. I first made this bread in pastry school (minus the raisins) and shortly after adjusted the recipe a bit and converted its measurements from ounces to cups. I have been making this bread every year since (and even made a vegan version) but the bread just didn't seem right. So this year I dusted off my old pastry school notebook and made the bread by the original recipe (still minus those raisins), and I must say, it came out much better.
Baking with a recipe scaled out by weight is actually much easier and entirely more accurate than baking with a recipe scaled out by cups and half cups. Think about the difference between a cup of packed flour and a cup of lightly fluffed flour. A packed cup of flour can hold almost double the amount of a properly fluffed and sifted cup of flour.* Anyhow, if you don't already have a small kitchen scale you really should think about getting one. They come in handy for much more than baking, but are (in my opinion) an essential baking tool. So, here is the recipe for the original pumpkin bread (again minus the raisins, but if you really must add them, soak 4 ounces of raisins in 3 1/2 ounce of water overnight). The clove too I sometimes leave out, but that one is up to you.
This bread is perfect to wrap up in cellophane and give as a gift, as it holds up well and tastes fresh for 3 to 4 days. It isn't pumpkin cake, baked in a loaf pan, it's a little sweet and a little hearty and nowhere near decadent. It's also great served with a Cream Cheese Spread, but certainly isn't necessary. I do remember some of the people in pastry school adding chocolate chips or pecans (and don't remember anyone, except the guest pastry chef whose recipe this was, adding those water-soaked raisins), which I imagine could be good, but personally I think this bread is great without any additions.
* Cooking Note: So, what is the "right" way to measure a cup of flour? Use a spoon to lightly fluff the flour while in its package or container. Use the spoon to transfer the flour from the container to the measuring cup. (Rather than dipping the measuring cup into the container of flour.) Once the measuring cup is more than filled with the flour, use the straight edge of a knife and gently run it across the top of the cup to even out the flour. When a recipe calls for a cup of flour, measuring in this manner will get you the desired amount of flour. Again, it's quite unfortunate that most American recipes aren't scaled out in weight measurements because it really makes for inaccurate baking.
Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Spread
Makes 1 loaf
In the past, I wasn’t a huge fan of pumpkin but now I really like this popular fall squash, especially when it is in the form of warm spice bread. This bread is extremely moist and makes a wonderful appetizer, especially on Thanksgiving. I like to slice this bread and serve it on a platter with a small dish of Cream Cheese Spread. It is also good to make this batter a day ahead of time (and keep in the refrigerator) so that it can rest and really absorb all of the spices.
7 ounces flour
4 1/2 grams baking powder
2 1/2 grams baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon clove (optional)
3 1/2 grams salt
7 1/2 ounces pumpkin puree
9 ounces sugar
3 ounces oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove (if using) and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine the pumpkin puree and sugar until completely blended. Add the oil and eggs until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the flour mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes to an hour, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the bread. Let the bread cool in its pan for 15 minutes or until you are able to handle the pan with your bare hands. Run a knife along the sides of the bread and invert the bread on a wire rack to cool completely. To store the bread, wrap it in plastic wrap and then again in foil to keep it fresh for up to four days.
Cream Cheese Spread
Makes 1/2 pound
I prefer to buy organic cream cheese in a block, without any preservatives, and whip it up myself.
1 eight ounce package of non whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
Place the soft cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and use a spoon to mix together until fluffy. Serve in a small dish with a cheese spreader along side the Pumpkin Spice Bread.