Recipe quick takes: King Arthur Flour’s whole-wheat pumpkin bread

If you read the last installment, you’ll recall that I had to do a bunch of shuffling of my baking schedule as a result of a critical ingredient not being available. As a result, I ended up moving a pumpkin cake recipe that I was planning to do for Thanksgiving week up three weeks, to this coming weekend. It calls for a cup of pumpkin, and that sent me scurrying to find other recipes that I could use the rest of that bag of frozen pumpkin purée — you see, a cup of pumpkin is about 9½ ounces, but most pie recipes call for 15 ounces (the modern standard can size) or a whole pound (the old standard can size, and thus the weight I use when putting up my own homemade pumpkin purée). I thought I had found a recipe that used ¾ cup, which would have been close enough, but on rereading I decided that it was too involved, and went to look for another recipe. I ended up doing the pumpkin bread recipe from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking (Countryman Press, 2006; p. 51), but that also calls for a cup of pumpkin — so I had to thaw a second package of purée anyway! We’ll see what I can manage to do with the remaining 13 ounces. In the mean time, here’s a quick review of this excellent quickbread:

Mise en place
This bread is made by the creaming method, starting with a stick (110 g) of butter, 1¾ oz (50 g) of granulated sugar, and 7½ oz (215 g) of brown sugar; I used India Tree brand dark muscovado for the brown sugar, which brings a wonderful molassesey moistness to pretty much everything. The other wet ingredients are three large eggs, a teaspoon of vanilla, and the aforementioned cup (9½ oz, 270 g) of homemade pumpkin purée. On the dry team, it’s 100% whole-wheat flour, half a pound (225 g) of it, along with a teaspoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon each of baking powder and salt, the usual spices (½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp cloves, and ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg), three ounces (85 g) of chopped nuts — I used pecans, toasted of course — and 4½ ounces (130 g) of dried fruit. Since it is that time of year, I chose to use dried cranberries for my fruit, but you could use raisins or dried cherries instead.

Creamed butter and dark muscovado
This quickbread is made, as I said, by the creaming method, and one stick of butter is just not enough to cream in the stand mixer, so I got out my hand mixer and creamed the butter alone (this involved some swapping of containers) before adding the sugars and beating well. One downside of the dark muscovado is that it can be a bit lumpy — I generally find that the lumps bake out just fine, but it can be a bit disconcerting to look down in the bowl and see all these brown lumps interrupting your nice creamed butter-and-sugar mixture.

Butter, sugar, and egg mixture
The three eggs are added, one at a time, scraping the bowl between each addition, along with the vanilla. At this point, it looks as much like a cookie batter as a bread dough, although with three eggs it has more water and less fat than most cookies.

Now with added pumpkin!
Because the dark muscovado is so dark, it’s not that easy to tell that the pumpkin purée has been added. At this point, the flour, leaven, and spices are sifted together in another bowl, then carefully mixed in — I put down the hand mixer and just folded with a spatula — followed by the nuts and dried fruit. The dough, although thicker, is still pourable at this point, and it is baked in a prepared 9×5-inch (230 mm×130 mm) loaf pan at 350°F (175°C) for about an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Baked and cooled loaf of pumpkin bread
After cooling in the pan for about 20 minutes, the pumpkin bread is depanned and allowed to cool completely on a wire rack; this is important to ensure that the crust doesn’t get soggy. (If you like soft, sticky crusts, by all means leave it in there, but I prefer some texture.) You might think this bread was overbaked by the way it looks on the outside, but that’s really a result of the dark brown sugar. Once cool, it can be wrapped in a clean tea towel until ready to portion and serve.

Sliced pumpkin bread in Tupperware container
Of course for me, “portion and serve” means “pack up to bring to work and feed my colleagues” — which is just what I did. The recipe headnote says that it makes 16 servings, and I think that’s pretty reasonable. Rather than trying to cut 16 even, thin slices crosswise, I chose instead to slice the loaf in half lengthwise, and then cut 8 crosswise slices, giving the appearance of a more substantial serving (so much so that several tasters wanted to cut my pieces in even smaller chunks).

Pumpkin bread on cutting board, showing cross-section
I think both the pecans and the dried cranberries were fabulous here, adding just the right amount of texture, and the perfect complement to the molasses flavor of the dark muscovado and the hearty whole-wheat flour. I did not receive a single negative comment on this one, not even from tasters I know to be fussy and exacting. Highly recommended.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/16 of a 9×5″ loaf
Servings per recipe: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 235 Calories from fat 99
% Daily Value
Total Fat 11g 16%
 Saturated Fat 4g 21%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 50mg 17%
Sodium 198mg 8%
Potassium 41mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 34g 11%
 Dietary fiber 3g 12%
 Sugars 21g
Proteins 4g 7%
Vitamin A 16%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 4%
Iron 6%
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