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Pumpkin Bread (with a bit o’ chocolate)

Me again, the one who is still kind of on the Northern Hemisphere’s schedule despite the purple jacaranda trees, birds merrily singing us awake before 6 a.m., the grass turning green and temperatures inching ever upwards — all signs of spring in most parts of the world. Yet it’s November and we are planning to celebrate the American Thanksgiving holiday in a few weeks (we being Americans after all) which means pumpkin pie plus all the assorted pumpkin accoutrements such as muffins, cookies, cake, and bread. If we’re eating by the seasons pumpkin is typically ready in the fall, probably why it is such a staple of the Thanksgiving table, but I can still find a bit here in the store, and last week we made a special trip to buy a small pumpkin, roasted it until it was soft and caramelly, and folded it into a luscious batter for pumpkin bread.

Our days more or less have fallen into a sort of rhythm, 14 months after having baby E join the family and all the subsequent traveling and settling and moving and settling that took place during the last year. She’s still on a two-nap per day schedule so when she’s snoozing Sierra and I do a variety of activities, mostly involving reading and playing, but often also a bit of baking. She’s in preschool two days a week so for the other three weekdays I try to come up with a daily “project” of sorts that we can do together to keep the day interesting; being in the kitchen is a wonderful way to do this. We whisk and stir together and talk about what we’re making and then in less than an hour we have our afternoon snack put together. It’s hard for me to believe she’ll be going to school full time in about a year so I am trying to make these relaxed days at home count.

More often than not I’ll have a “healthier” bake scheduled but I’ll readily admit this pumpkin bread does not fall into that category and that is fine by me. As I’ve mentioned so many times, I firmly believe in balance — as long as we’re not snacking constantly on chips and purchased cookies or ice creams the occasional treat is OK. And this bread recipe, despite the sugar, is more than OK — it meets my requirements for being comprised of whole, simple ingredients, and I used spelt flour in place of the all-purpose the original called for thus causing me to feel a bit better about the butter!

This recipe comes again by way of Sarah Keiffer‘s cookbook, and I made it last year around this time when we were starting to cheer the “cool” temperatures of low 90s in the desert. My friend and I split a case of organic pumpkin so we could indulge in our fall baking needs, though this year I just roasted and pureed a small pumpkin we got at the grocery store. I just altered her original a bit by adding chocolate and cardamom and using whole grain flour — it seems I can’t bake these days using plain white/all purpose flour (it just feels … wrong … somehow) so I expect the crust for my Thanksgiving pies also will be made with spelt flour. I love the nutritional upgrade as well as the taste and density whole grain flour gives to baked goods and in a loaf bread the texture is especially bolstered.

On the docket for later today is my recipe for applesauce-oat cookies though perhaps without the dried cherries as I don’t have any in the house currently. Leftovers for dinner so we can clean out the fridge. To make up for my pumpkin affinity whilst it’s out of season I’m thinking about procuring some rhubarb this weekend to stew into compote … we shall see. For the rest of you poised on the cusp of winter, however — this one’s for you.

[print_this]Pumpkin Bread, adapted from Sarah Keiffer

This recipe makes a lot, and I baked a regular sized loaf for us to eat and two smaller ones for the freezer. I keep it in the fridge and eat slices cold or at room temperature.

Makes two large loaves or one large and two small loaves.

3 cups flour: spelt, blend of spelt + whole wheat pastry, or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup olive oil
8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
One 15-ounce can (425g) unsweetened pumpkin puree (about 2 cups roasted and pureed pumpkin)
Handful semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease your loaf pans and line each with a parchment paper sling.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour/s, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until pale yellow. Whisk in the sugars and maple syrup and whisk until well combined. Add the olive oil, melted butter, vanilla, and pumpkin, and whisk together until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture. Whisk and stir until combined and no lumps in the batter remain. Fold in the chocolate.

Divide the batter equally into the prepared pans and bake 50-60 minutes, until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If at any point the tops are browning too quickly, lay a piece of aluminum foil over them.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a wire rack; let cool in the pans for 20 minutes. Using the parchment sling, lift the loaves out of the pan, peel off the paper, and let the bread finish cooling on the wire rack. [/print_this]

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