Wednesday, January 12, 2011
My Love for Everything Pumpkin
Fall is one of my favorite times of year - the weather is wonderful, the scenery is gorgeous and pumpkins arrive! I'm not sure that I have come across a pumpkin recipe that I haven't liked. That said, some are better than others.
I've been trying to cut out white refined sugar from my family's diet for awhile now; other than powdered sugar from the holidays, I finally used up the last of the white sugar in the house at Christmas time with our First Annual Family Christmas Cookie Exchange. I now rely on sucanat (sugar cane natural aka evaporated cane juice), turbinado sugar, "natural" brown sugar, honey and maple syrup. We do have some xylitol in the house which I use on occasion mixed with other sugars and I have tried brown rice syrup as well as palm sugar. So it is always my quest to look for recipes that include whole grains and one of the more natural/less refined sugars. And that is how I found this wonderful Pumpkin Pecan Bread recipe.
You'll see from my pictures that we typically roast and puree our own pumpkins, but this is not necessary - you can use canned pumpkin puree from the grocery store as well. But I wanted to show you that it really isn't that difficult to do, just a little bit of planning. First I preheat the oven to 375 degrees, cut the pumpkin in half, take out the seeds and lay them face down on a cookie sheet. I usually add a bit of water to help in the roasting process. Then roast for about 45 minutes - you will know the pumpkins are done if a knife slides into the pumpkin easily. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it cool until you are able to handle it. Scoop out the inside flesh and puree in a food processor. I have found that straining the pumpkin overnight is extremely helpful. To do this I use a fine mesh strainer and put a few coffee filters in for easy clean-up/removal. I place the strainer over a bowl or tupperware container and place the puree in the prepared strainer, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least for a few hours to remove excess water. Depending on the type of pumpkin you use, you will have a lot of excess water or just a little.
My favorite pumpkin that I've tried was a sugar pie pumpkin that I picked up at the farmers market this past fall. It was the first batch of pumpkins that I had come across at the farmers market and I was a bit disappointed at how ugly it was. But WOW, it had the best flavor and color of any other that I have tried. A few weeks later I went back to that same vendor because I hadn't seen anything like it at any of the other farmer's markets that I had visited and he said he sold out of those the first week! Well now I know what I am planting someday when we have room to plant pumpkins! Any type of smaller or pie pumpkins tend to work best, but you can use even a regular large pumpkin - it won't have the dark orange color that you think of when you have pumpkin and it will be very watery and not as flavorful. This year I bought a number of pumpkins at farmers markets and received some in our CSA as well, so I have been roasting a couple of pumpkins at a time and freezing the puree. I had planned on canning it, but it looks like the FDA does not recommend canning pureed pumpkin.
Anyway, on to the recipe...this recipe calls for white whole wheat flour and if you have not tried this type of flour yet, I highly recommend buying a bag of it! I had typically bought King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour, but wasn't finding it at the stores near my house, so I tried a new brand (Eagle Mills) and it worked great, and was cheaper. Although I did find King Arthur's flour at Woodmans a few weeks later for roughly the same price. This flour is great because it has the benefits of whole wheat flour, but does not have the strong taste or dark color of whole wheat. Most of the time you wouldn't even know that you are eating whole wheat bread! I've even tried it as a thickening agent for sauces and it works well. If you plan to experiment with this type of flour, start by substituting half white whole wheat for all purpose flour in your recipes. Otherwise look for recipes that are intended to use white whole wheat or whole wheat.
Pumpkin Pecan Bread (From Whole Grain Gourmet website)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup packed natural brown sugar (I used sucanat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt (I used sea salt)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, preferrably 60% cocoa
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Lighly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with butter.
Combine flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Whisk and set aside.
In another large bowl, combine butter, honey, and sugar and beat for two minutes. Add the eggs and lightly beat until just combined. Mix in pumpkin and vanilla -- do not overmix. Gradually beat in the flour mixture in thirds.
Dilute baking soda in ¼ cup hot (not boiling) water, then beat into batter.
Stir in, by hand, the chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 325 for approximately 55 to 65 minutes. (test for doneness being careful not to overbake as it may dry out the bread)
Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool. If you plan to serve this to guests and want clean slices, then allow it to cool for 30 minutes. Otherwise dig in after 5 minutes.
In my oven it usually takes at least 65 minutes, but I always check at 55 to be sure. I hope you like this bread as much as our family does!
And sorry that this took so long to post again, after the last post I forgot that I would be going out of town for several days. Maybe I'll get another recipe posted this weekend to catch up!