Pumpkin Bread

First of all, let me tell you why I enjoy baking so much. And why it trumps general cooking, in my book (though I really love both). It's because virtually all baking leverages the same basic ingredients. So long as you have flour, eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and milk you can bake virtually anything. On the fly, without warning.

Like this Sunday morning when I woke up and decided to make pumpkin bread (and, while we're on the subject, why has it been dubbed bread? This stuff is totally cake, people. A pound cake, maybe, but a a cake never-the-less).

Let's meet the cast of characters, shall we?

Now, you may be wondering what that big orange square is that is stacked against the butter and eggs. That would be my fresh (now frozen) pumkin puree. YUM. Every October I cook pumpkin, ration out the 'meat' and freeze it because, quite frankly, there is nothing like a pumpkin pie made with the real deal. And I actually don't puree mine because I like the texture of the pure pumpkin pulp (doesn't that sound delectable). It adds air and lift to an otherwise very dense pie.

Sorry if I totally ramped you up about 'baking on the fly' in the beginning of this post for you only to realize you now need to go out and buy a 16 oz. can of pumkin puree. Oops.

Let's get started already.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Hey, that's my oven! P.S. This recipe will make 2 loaves. If you only want one, halve it.

Sift together all of the dry ingredients. Or don't. It won't ruin it. I actually almost didn't do the sifting until I remembered that I do actually have a sifter.

Dry ingredients =
3 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
3 t. cinnamon
1 t. grated nutmeg
2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cloves

In a separate bowl, beat 3 sticks of room temperature butter until creamy. See how this stuff is still a bit clumpy? Keep going.

Keep going until it starts to look a little bit like this:

with the butter getting smooth and starting to get stuck in the beaters. So kick up the speed to kick that stuff out (I started out slow to keep big chunks of butter from going everywhere. I did not succeed, however, in keeping small chunks of butter from going everywhere).

Please note that Jade did not get any butter or sugar. But it wasn't for lack of trying. Thank goodness our dining room table is countertop height.

Once it's all creamy, it's time to add the light brown sugar. Gradually. I added it a cup at a time. I know, you see two separate clumps of brown sugar up there. That's because the largest dry measuring cup I own is 1/2 cup. Making big batches of bread and rolls with lots of flour is lots of fun!

Scrape down the sides and add another cup. Beat again.

Now we're ready for the last cup of sugar.

I used white sugar for the last 1/2 c. because I was using a darker brown sugar than the light brown. But feel free to use all brown sugar. Or half and half. Any way you dice it, just make sure it adds up to 3 cups. More brown sugar will result in a darker loaf with a more caramelized-like crust. Rind. You know, the outside part.

And beat it. Beat it for as long as you can stand it. Get it nice and creamy.

Next come the eggs. I was really excited to have found some local eggs at the grocery store. But, most importantly, they come from free-range, happy chickens! Sweet, although a little disconcerting, was the note from the farm that accompanied the eggs. Another local farm does the same thing, but it's an update on how 'the ladies' are doing. Ladies = hens. This one, however, was a bit concerning because of its poor grammar, namely the lack of complete sentences or coherent thoughts:

'These nice fall days are a bonus for the farmers. The horses seem to have an extra urge to get done plowing; it's an interesting time watching for deer and hear the birds, or husk corn one round then another. It's exciting when you see a squirrel scamper in a tree, or maybe watch a raccoon -Stanberry Community Farms'

Let's move on. Add one egg at a time. Here's the first one. Then beat it.

Egg #2. Go ahead, do what Michael Jackson tells you.

Egg #3. Is that song stuck in your head yet?

Egg #4 - last one! It should be creamy, with any granularity from the sugar completely gone. (you have to taste it to figure that out. darn!)

And now, the star of the show, pumpkin! Add in 2 cups and beat until it's thoroughly incorporated.

Now comes 2/3 cup of milk, with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract mixed in. Now we're going to alternate adding dry ingredients with the milk mixture. I added each in three parts.

First come the dry ingredients. Beat in 1/3 of the mixture until just incorporated. (we are now entering the 'it's possible to overbeat' zone)

Next comes 1/3 of the milk mixture. Keep on alternating until it's all been added, and it will look like this:

Time to prepare the bread pan. 9x5 is pretty standard and is what I used. Hopefully you have 2 loaf pans instead of just one, because this takes quite a bit of time in the oven. But if you don't, you'll be ok. I was!

Butter the loaf pan, and then cut a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom.

Then pour in half of the final batter.

And spread smooth with a spatula.

Bake it at 350 degrees for an hour (see, I told you it takes a while).

When it's done, it will look like this! Yes, it looks dark, but believe me it is not burned. And it is still soft and very moist. The darkness comes from all that brown sugar. When you first take it out of the oven, the outside is just the slightest bit crispy. The Italian Stallion lives for foods that have a little crispy or crunchy thrown in, so he was happy. The crispiness goes away very quickly, so if you like that, you should serve it right away. After being stored in a ziploc or covered with saran wrap, it loses that edge.

Set it on a cooling rack; then after a few minutes, you can use my uber-complicated extraction method. I do it this way because if I were to turn it out onto the cooling rack directly, the top would stick and then I'd have lines in the top with chunks missing. And that's no good.

Invert a plate lined with wax paper (I used my scraps) over the top of the loaf pan. The wax paper is important because the top of the bread could stick to the plate during transfer. I learned all of this the hard way when making a birthday cake. Trust me, better safe than trying to piece together a crumbled mound.

Flip it on over. It should release pretty easily. I had meant to go around the sides with a knife before I even started this, but forgot and its still came out perfectly. Lucky me.

Now it's time to get it back onto the cooling rack.

Invert, flip, and ta da!

I'd wait to remove the wax paper from the bottom (if you can; I know it's best when it's warm). The cooler the bread is, the easier it will come off. But I ripped mine off virtually as soon as it came out of the oven and it was just fine (hey, it's the bottom anyway - who's gonna see it???). I ate the bits that stuck to the paper.

Serve it on up. You could sift some confectioner's sugar on top if you want to dress it up a bit. But this bread really doesn't need anything. Not even butter.

But you'll see that I added some, anyway. Doesn't need it, but more won't make it taste any worse, that's for sure.


Pumpkin Bread
3 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
3 t. cinnamon
1 t. grated nutmeg
2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cloves
3 sticks butter, softened
3 c. light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 c. fresh or canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 t. pure vanilla extract
2/3 c. milk

Just keepin' it real - here's the mess I left in my wake. Where's the kitchen fairy?


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