Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin bread

If 10-year-old me could've traveled into the future and met the 26-year-old version of herself, the younger one would've been in for quite a few surprises.

First, she didn't grow up to be roughly five feet and seven inches tall, like her pediatrician promised based on her parents' heights.  Luckily, only two or so years were wasted developing useless basketball talents :)  Second, "Katharine Kemp" cannot be found among past winners engraved on the women's Wimbledon trophy.  Drat.  Third, my once board-straight light blond hair morphed, sometime during puberty, into a super curly light brown mop.

Together, those are some pretty big differences for a little (and big) kid to grasp, mostly because two were appearance-changing.  But none of them would've startled 10-year-old me quite like this last one -- 2010 Katy loves pumpkinPumpkin soup.  Pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin seedsPumpkin pie oatmeal (oh yes, the obsession only grows stronger).  Pumpkin brownies.  You get the idea.  All things pumpkin.

When I was younger, I hated the flavor of pumpkin.  To me, pumpkin pie was a dessert that grown-ups enjoyed.  Why?  Because it wasn't as sweet as chocolate.  Basically, less sugar meant less fun and that's what adulthood boiled down to for me.  No fun at all.  Sound logic, eh?  A few times my mom made me try it, and I was too busy wrinkling my nose, groaning, and spitting it into a napkin to actually attempt to enjoy it.

As with many things, years passed and my loathing of pumpkin faded from my memory.  Think about it -- if you're not a super pumpkin enthusiast, you'll probably have pumpkin pie once a year at Thanksgiving, that's it.  College came and went without any real pumpkin encounters.  But, last year around this time, I sampled a pumpkin bisque at the Market District.  I was hungry at the grocery store and any little sample caught my eye, so I tasted it before the food phobia center in my brain could get the better of me.  Whoh!  What have I been missing?!

I love that the sweet squash flavor of pumpkin is usually spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves.  Talk about a party for the senses.  Apple pie's got nothin' on pumpkin pie when it comes to the spice department.  Be still my heart!  So, a quick trip to the index of my favorite baking book and I headed to the kitchen, armed with a pumpkin bread recipe sure to please. 
This pumpkin bread recipe is classic, no frills.  No nuts or chocolate chips or anything else to distract from the core flavors.  The buttermilk and pumpkin make this bread so moist that, dare I suggest this, you may not even need a spread of butter or cream cheese.  (gasp)  It's sweet without being cake, making it a perfect breakfast accompaniment or an afternoon snack.  You know, because there's a vegetable in there.  At least that's what I'll tell my adult self to justify eating it morning, noon, and night.

Pumpkin Bread
(adapted, just barely, from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook)
-makes one 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf

A few notes: This bread freezes wonderfully.  Allow to cool completely before wrapping in plastic and placing in a large resealable bag.  Also, I used a metal loaf pan, but a glass 9x5-inch dish would work as well.  Baking time may be a bit shorter, so keep an eye on it.  Finally, my apologies for no picture of the sliced bread.  You'll just have to trust me that it's delicious.  It disappeared very quickly.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick or baking spray; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and powder, spices, and salt.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugars and pumpkin, mixing until well combined.  Add eggs and oil, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed, and mix until incorporated.  With the mixer on low, add the flour in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, and mix until just combined and no flour is visible.

Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan.  Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking time, until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.  Cool the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.  Run a paring knife around the edge of the pan and turn out bread onto rack, to cool completely.

Store, covered at room temperature, for up to 5 days.

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