Baking pumpkin bread at our house on a crisp fall weekend is as strong a tradition as shopping for Halloween candy. For years now, my young adult daughters would just as soon enjoy a slice of pumpkin bread as eat a piece of candy. Last year Maggy reminisced about fall in her post “Ode to Autumn.” And since pumpkin bread holds such vibrant memories for them both, here’s what Sharon has to say this season...
Forget candy! I’d trade a Snickers for a warm, thick slice of pumpkin bread any day. I can’t remember exactly when Maggy and I fell in love with pumpkin. The exact moment has, I suppose, faded into the happy blur of nostalgic memories that begins at the end of October and races to the beginning of January.
For a kid, autumn means leaf piles, Halloween costumes, and candy. But it also kicks off a season of holidays that we were still young enough to anticipate with pure joy…unencumbered by the jaded stress and anxiety of adults. Growing up, I spent much of October in quiet disbelief. I just couldn’t believe that every single year Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s were all allowed to be so close together. I kept quiet because I didn’t want to jinx it!
And so for me, pumpkin bread has always marked the beginning of cool days and after-school trips to the farm to pick our bright orange carving victims. But this warm, spiced bread also carries my reminiscing through November, to those few minutes of breakfast calm before the busy Thanksgiving preparations. And even into December as little loaves always found their way onto our doorstep wrapped in plastic and adorned with ribbon. For the imaginative kid in me (who’s still very much alive), pumpkin bread gives tangible taste and familiar aroma to the season of holidays I have always loved so dearly.
I hope I can hold on to that as the years get shorter and busier. I hope that I continue to find more joy in a simple slice of homemade bread than in all the candy in my bag or in any of presents that may–or may not–be under the tree.
Here I offer Maggy and Sharon’s favorite recipe trading ground ginger for nutmeg and taking down the sugar levels. I also offer a lighter version, applesauce standing in for half the butter.
Either way, head to your grocery store and pick up a few cans of pumpkin. Between heavy rains and hoarding the last couple of years, demand has been greater than supply. In fact, the grocery store shelves in my Pennsylvania and Connecticut were bare until October. Fortunately I found stashes at my local specialty stores and happily paid dearly.
Simple, Seasonal Pumpkin Bread
Makes two 9-inch loaves (about 24 servings)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon each: baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
1 can (16 ounces) pure pumpkin
Grease and flour two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugars in a medium bowl. Whisk in butter until fully incorporated and then pumpkin. Beat wet ingredients into dry ingredients until smooth; divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool a few minutes. Run a knife around pan to loosen bread. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For a lighter pumpkin bread, substitute 1/2 cup applesauce for 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of the butter.