Now that we’re in October, I think it’s safe to say we can start cooking with fall ingredients. Cranberries, pumpkin, baked apples and pears, spices…all of these signify, to me, the arrival of autumn and all that’s associated with it. Even though the weather is still warm and summery where I live, if I make a big bowl of soup for dinner, followed by a slice of warm pumpkin bread, I can almost trick myself into thinking that fall is just outside of my door.
Recently I made my first pumpkin bread batch of the season, and it was heavenly. Sweet, moist, fragrant with spices and topped with salted pumpkin seeds, it brought autumn right into my kitchen. So whether you live in a place where the leaves have started turning and the air is cool, or whether, like me, you have eternally sunny skies, you can bring a bit of fall into your life with this easy pumpkin bread recipe.
Pepita Pumpkin Bread
yield: 1 loaf
- 1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
Before we go any further, let me explain about the pepitas. Pepitas are hulled pumpkin seeds. If you’ve ever scooped the seeds out of a pumpkin, baked them, and then cracked them between your teeth and eaten the seeds inside, well, you’ve had pepitas. They’re slender and green, with a savory, nutty flavor and a great crunch. I like to sprinkle salted pepitas on top of my pumpkin bread–the green seeds look beautiful on the orange bread, and the salty nuts add a nice contrast to the sweet, spicy bread. If the salty nuts sound like too much, you could go with roasted unsalted pepitas instead.
Back to business! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and spray a 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. You could also make 3 mini loaves, or about a dozen muffins instead.
We’re going to start by combining most of our dry ingredients, save the sugars. So in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves. I like a pretty spicy bread, so if you prefer your bread to taste mostly of pumpkin, you can reduce these spices by up to half.
Now it’s time to get the wet ingredients going. I’m going to use my stand mixer, but you could use a hand mixer or even do it by hand with a whisk. In this case a mixer is a better option, because it will do a better job of beating more air into the bread so it’s not as dense, but making pumpkin bread by hand certainly isn’t a tragedy. So, start by combining the oil and the sugars in a large bowl and beat them for about a minute. The mixture will look clumpy and grainy.
Add one egg and beat until it’s incorporated (about 30 seconds) then scrape down the bowl and add the second egg. Beat for about a minute, then scrape down the bowl again. By now the mixture should be glossy and smooth.
Add the vanilla extract, and then spoon in the pumpkin puree. Mix until the pumpkin is incorporated, and scrape down the bowl again for good measure.
Now it’s time for the dry ingredients that you’ve already whisked together. Add them all at once and then mix slowly, just until they disappear into the batter. You don’t want to overmix, because that will make the pumpkin bread tough. You can even stop the mixer before the flour’s fully incorporated and finish stirring it in by hand.
The batter’s almost done, and from personal experience, I can tell you that it tastes great. However, you’ll notice that it’s still quite thick and gloopy at this point, so it’s time for the final, exotic ingredient…
Water! Okay, so it’s not exotic, but it is necessary. With the mixer running on low, slowly stream in the water until it’s totally mixed in. At this point you’ll have a silky-smooth batter that smells fantastic.
Scrape the batter into the sprayed loaf pan. It’s almost ready to go in the oven, but we need our final dusting of pepitas.
Coarsely chop the pepitas. I like to keep mine in big chunks, and even leave some whole because I think they look best that way.
Once they’re chopped, sprinkle the pepitas all over the top of the batter. Put the loaf pan on a baking sheet, so that the bottom doesn’t bake too quickly and burn. Bake the loaf at 350 degrees for about 60-70 minutes–the exact time will depend on your pan and your oven. Start checking it after 45 minutes, and if it looks like the top is getting too dark, cover the top with foil while it finishes baking. It’s done when you press down on the top and it springs back.
Once it’s out of the oven, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out and letting it cool completely on a wire rack. I like it just slightly warm, but I do think the flavor and texture improve if you let it sit until it’s completely cool. (Unfortunately, patience has never been one of my virtues.) If you wrap it well, this pepita pumpkin bread will keep at room temperature for about 5 days, but it also freezes beautifully, so if you have leftovers, you can store them in the freezer for several months.
The beauty of this pumpkin bread recipe is how flexible it is. If you don’t want to sprinkle the pepitas on top, you can stir them into the batter. Or you can add an endless assortment of other mix-ins instead. Here are a few more ideas of great pumpkin bread additions:
- Chocolate chips, miniature or full-sized
- Butterscotch chips
- Chopped walnuts
- Cinnamon Pecans
- Black Raisins
- Golden Raisins
- Crimson Raisins
- Dried Cranberries
There are so many possible pumpkin bread variations, I don’t even need fall weather. I’ll just sit and enjoy my pumpkin bread until winter comes.
All text and photos (c) 2010 Elizabeth LaBau