Thursday, October 4, 2012

a pumpkin bread for october

I'm a believer that sweater weather is better weather. Unfortunately the weather in D.C. over this first week of October has been warm, humid, and wet. In other words: 100 percent chance of frizz, and 0 chance I'm breaking out the new suede booties I bought. So, instead of going outside and facing the frizz factor, I stayed indoors and baked pumpkin bread. It may not feel like October, folks, but with this recipe I sure made my kitchen smell like it, gosh darn.

I think I have four different go-to recipes for pumpkin bread in my arsenal. Some of them produce breads that are cakey and sweet, while others are dense and loaf-like. This recipe, slightly adapted from the September/October 2012 issue of Cook's Illustrated, made a bread that was somewhere in the middle. The reason I branched out and tried this recipe in the first place, actually, was for the recipe's claim to "take the canned flavor out of the pumpkin" by cooking the puree on a stovetop before popping the mix into the oven. What can I say? I was intrigued. Especially because I never really had a problem baking with canned pumpkin before.

Lo, I found this bread to hit all the right notes: It is perfect toasted with butter in the morning, and hardy enough to stand up next to a full dinner, but not quite sweet enough to consider a dessert. The top of the bread bakes into a nice outer shell, while the walnuts give its inherently moist innards a satisfying crunch. Add it to the arsenal, I say!
- 2 c. flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 (15-oz.) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 c. granulated sugar
- 1 c. packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 c vegetable oil
- 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. walnuts
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans with Crisco. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large saucepan, combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves over. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until just combined. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until cream cheese is mostly combined. Scrape contents of pan into large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and cream. Incorporate egg mixture into to pumpkin mixture using a hand mixer; beat on low until combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until skewer inserted in center of load comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let bread cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pans and let cool for a least 1 1/2 hours.