It was earlier this week when I made my first batch of pumpkin something of the season. Yes, it’s August, but that’s never stopped me.
I packed some to send to New York with one friend and some to send to another in Knoxville. And obviously, I kept a few around for snack purposes 🙂
Pumpkin and I have an interesting relationship.
I’d moved just months earlier to Kansas City and, as many 20-something recent grads experience, finding friends out of college is a whole different animal.
And so maybe it was the lack of pumpkin, and maybe it was the lack of community and connection, but I found myself standing in a grocery store in front of an empty shelf with tears rolling down my face. Shelves that should have been laden with cans of Libby’s were bare. The Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2009. (Tell me you remember.) That absence of pumpkin was the straw that broke this camel’s back.
Later that fall, I would begin to find community — and pumpkin too, as luck would have it. Because shortages and droughts never last forever.
So pumpkin, for me symbolizes redemption. It’s about tough times getting better. It’s about finding friends where I thought I’d find none. It’s humble but significant, and a culinary rockstar.
Pumpkin is a favorite flavor, a favorite ingredient. It plays quite a role in cooking for me, both savory and sweet. It was that season that led to the pumpkin
hoarding collecting. At least a dozen cans of Libby’s are hanging out, just waiting for me to deliver them into cakes and muffins and pancakes and oatmeal and breads and pastas and ice creams.
When pumpkin is involved, it’s always a star. But its best role is in pumpkin bread (and companion pumpkin muffins).
This recipe is my favorite way to capture the essence of fall. Inspired by this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, I’ve added a twist or two. I think it’s the best pumpkin bread. Really.
Yield: Two 8½x4½-inch loaves, OR 36 standard muffins OR 60-ish mini muffins (!)
3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1 cup vegetable oil
2-2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups (15 ounces) canned pumpkin
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 8½x4½-inch loaf pans, or line muffin tins.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil and sugar until combined. Add the eggs, pumpkin, water and vanilla and whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix gently until combined.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans (or among muffin tins) and bake. Bread: 60 to 80 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins: 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
5. Remove the bread/muffins from the oven and place the pans on a cooling rack. Once the breads and/or muffins are completely cool, turn out of the pans. You can serve immediately or, for even better flavor and moistness, wrap the loaves in plastic wrap or foil and store at room temperature overnight. And if mailing, I suggest a ziploc bag for storage.