Decades ago in a booklet on Greek Olive Oil I came across a recipe for pumpkin bread. Actually it’s more of a cake than a bread but falls into place for a tea sweet or a breakfast cake and could easily be dessert with a scoop of ice cream. I see pumpkin bread recipes racing across the screen these days, but each year I take out my 29-ounce tin of the pureed orange stuff and use a pound for the loaves; I still have enough left for a pie.
This quick-mix formula makes plenty for extra cakes to give away. With a half hour’s prep, 40 to 45 minutes baking, and a brush of lemon glaze, six sweet loaves will quickly line your cooling rack. I prefer to use small, 6-by-3 1/2-inch loaf pans, since I’m always advocating small slices of anything sugary. It’s vital that the pans be well buttered and floured before adding the batter so the cake comes out easily. For extra moisture and flavor, I add dried fruit. This can be a mixture of raisins, currants, and dried cranberries, or a more elaborate combo of diced prunes, dates, apricots, and figs, or any combination. Chopped walnuts or pecans may also be part of the fruit mixture.
Since the original recipe came from an olive promotion booklet, olive oil works well, but this is no place for fancy extra virgin olive oil. Those cold-pressed oils should be saved for dressing salads or garnishing since their flavor and many benefits disperse in heat. For any sautéing or baking it’s suitable and much less costly to use a reputable “pure” olive oil. Otherwise, use a standard vegetable oil.
Thanksgiving’s right around the corner, and you can easily fit in a welcome batch of pumpkin bread.
16 oz. canned pumpkin (2 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground clove
4 large eggs (or 3 extra-large)
21 oz. sugar (3 cups)
6 fl. oz. pure olive oil (3/4 cup) or 8 fl. oz. vegetable oil (1 cup)
6 fl. oz. water (3/4 cup)
16 oz. all purpose flour (unbleached if possible) (3 ½ cups)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
12-16 oz. mixed dried fruit and nuts* (2-3 cups) (optional)
* raisins, golden raisins, currants, dried cranberries, cut dates, figs or prunes, chopped walnuts or pecans.
Butter and flour 6 small or 4 medium loaf pans. Preheat oven to 375°.
In a wide mixing bowl whisk the spices and salt into the pumpkin. Add eggs; beat to combine. Add sugar and whisk like crazy. Pour in oil and blend thoroughly. Place flour, soda and baking powder in sieve and sift 1/3 over pumpkin mixture. Whisk to combine, adding 1/3 of the water. Repeat, alternating the flour and water until all are incorporated.
Fold in optional fruit and nuts. Divide batter equally among the prepared baking pans. Place in preheated oven; bake at 375° 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until tests done.
To glaze, mix 2 cups powdered sugar with a tablespoon of lemon juice and few drops of boiling water to make a thin icing. Remove loaves from pans; place on cooling rack and brush icing over warm cakes, allowing some to drip down the sides. As cakes cool, icing will harden.
Wrap carefully and store in a tin or plastic box, or freeze. Makes 6 12 oz. loaves. They’ll be even tastier if allowed to mellow for a day or so.