~ Joe's Favorite "Roasted" Pumpkin Quick Bread ~
I'm kinda of proud to announce that I have never used or cooked with canned pumpkin. Over the years, I've also had a lot of people tell me they think pumpkin is one of the few foods that is better canned than fresh. They key word here is "think". I am one of purists that is here to tell them, and you, if you have ever tasted a light, silky-smooth, custard-like pumpkin pie, made from fresh pumpkin puree, you would rethink that statement!
My Great Aunt Mary (my grandmother's sister) lived on a farm and grew her own pumpkins. She was a fabulous baker too. So, for as far back as I can remember, our family always ate superb pumpkin desserts made from her freshly roasted pumpkin puree. For the last 15 years or so, my husband Joe has been growing pumpkins in our backyard (which alleviated the need for me to buy them) for I could make: roasted pumpkin puree!
In the picture above, you'll notice that all of the pumpkins are quite small, except for one. I like to refer to the large, decorative variety as: "Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins", the kind we all carve for Halloween. Joe grows a couple of these every year, just for fun. Today we're focusing our attention on the small, culinary pumpkins called: "sugar" or "pie" pumpkins. I always refer to them as sugar pumpkins because culinarily, they are NOT just for pumpkin pie. They can be used to make all sorts of desserts, as well as pickles, soups and an array of savory dishes!
Tips for Choosing, Using and Storing Pumpkins!
Choose pumpkins with smooth, unblemished skin that is solid and firm (no soft spots). If the pumpkin you choose is a little green, that is ok. Kept in a cool spot (not in the refrigerator), it will continue to ripen on its own. A fully-ripe pumpkin, stored at room temperature, will keep just fine for about a month. Whether you cut your pumpkin out of your own garden or buy one at the farmers' market, don't us the short stubly stem as a handle for carrying your pumpkin, as, they are quite woody and can snap off quickly under the weight of the pumpkin... in an instant, your carefully chosen, prime pumpkin will be smashed on the ground beneath (or on top of) your feet!
A bit about sugar pumpkins: Their average size is from about 4-8 pounds, but as you can see, some are quite smaller and some are quite bigger. They have a dryer, meatier texture than the Jack-o'lantern pumpkin. My favorite size is the 4-pound range because they seem to have the perfect ratio of skin, meat and seeds!
You can read my easy, foolproof method for ~ Roasted Pumpkin Puree ~ in Categories 15, 18 or 22, and, after that: never buy canned pumpkin again!
It's time to Make Joe's Favorite "Quick" Pumpkin Bread!
A bit about quick bread: Quick bread is an American term that refers to bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time. It originated during the American Civil war, when the demand for food and bread was high. Innovative cooks began rapidly producing bread and baked goods that were leavened with baking soda rather than yeast.
Nowadays, the leavening agent in quick bread is predominantly double-acting baking powder, sometimes baking soda or a combination of both. Typically, quick breads contain eggs, flour, salt, fat (butter, margarine, shortening or oil) and leavening. They can be sweet or savory and also contain sugar, fruits, fruit puree, vegetables, vegetable puree and various liquids (milk, buttermilk, fruit juice or stock). The wet ingredients and the dry ingredients are usually mixed separately in two different bowls. They are then combined, just prior to baking, mixed briefly (until they just bind together) and immediately baked. Biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, scones, soda bread and waffles fall into the category of quick bread too!
3 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, preferably my recipe for ~ Roasted Pumpkin Puree (Note: Canned pumpkin may be substituted but NOT canned pumpkin pie mix.)
For the dry ingredients:
5 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
For the wet ingredients:
1 cup butter-flavored vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups buttermilk (Note: This will get added along with the dry ingredients, meaning: it does not initially get beaten into the wet mixture.)
For the dried fruit and nuts:
2 cups currants
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
For preparing the pans:
no-stick cooking spray (for nonstick pans), or, butter (for conventional pans)
~ Step 1. Chop and place nuts in a shallow baking pan. Roast on center rack of 350 degree oven, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 12-15 minutes, stopping to toss with a spoon about every 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Don't turn the oven off.
~ Step 3. In a large mixing bowl, place the shortening, sugar and vanilla. Starting on low speed of mixer, gradually increasing speed to medium-high, combine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
~ Step 6. In approximately 3 parts (1/3, 1/3 & 1/3) add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the wet mixture, beating the batter after each addition until smooth, while using the spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl constantly.
~ Step 8. Ladle batter evenly into 12 mini-loaf pans (prepared as directed above).
Note: After the pans have been filled with batter, I like to place each one on a kitchen scale. Using an ordinary tablespoon I adjust the amount in each pan to ensure even baking and even-sized loaves...
Additionally, while I bake all 12 loaves on the center rack of a preheated oven at the same time, I place and bake 10 of the loaves on a 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" baking pan. This allows for a quick and easy transfer into and out of the hot oven, as well as prevents heat loss caused by keeping the door open too long!
~ Step 9. Bake loaves on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, about 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester (or a toothpick) inserted into their centers comes out clean. Loaves will have risen, be golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides of pans. Remove from oven and cool, in pans, about 10 minutes, prior to transferring to a colling rack to cool completely:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; shallow 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan; whisk; 12, 5 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 2" (2-cup size), mini-loaf pans; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; soup ladle; kitchen scale (optional); 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; cake tester or toothpick; cooling rack
Cook's Note: For another one of my delicious quick bread recipes, click into Categories 5, 11 or 22 to learn how to make ~ Macadamia-Mango, Coconut-Rum Banana Bread ~. Just like pumpkin bread, it is great toasted and slathered with butter on a chilly Fall or Winter morning!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)