Thursday, May 01, 2014

Pantry Perfect

This morning I brought a lovely quick bread I'd baked to a meeting, so my worry about not baking during the project wasn't justified. Some baking will's one of my creative outlets after all.

Because the project does come with time constraints, I headed to my pantry for the ingredients, especially the canned pumpkin. I know that pumpkin seems like a fall and winter flavor, but a good pumpkin bread is delicious any time of the year. This one has vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger for flavor, plus a dollop of Irish whiskey, for fun. I used both white and brown sugar, some eggs, some room temperature butter, and all purpose flour leavened with both baking soda and baking powder. At the end I threw in some dried cranberries, too. The finished bread was a golden brown with a lovely deep gold interior.

The recipe began as a King Arthur Flour recipe without the cinnamon, ginger, Irish whiskey, brown sugar or butter. I also changed the method because I used butter and creamed it with the sugars and vanilla, then added the eggs and water. Once these liquid ingredients were combined, the addition of the mixed dry ingredients went very quickly, yielding a very light and tender bread. It makes two good sized loaves. You could even freeze a loaf for later enjoyment. Since it goes together so quickly, give it a try.

You might wonder why I end up changing so many things. Why not start with a recipe that is closer to what I want to bake? Well, King Arthur Flour's website has so many recipes that I know I'll find one that will work as a starting point. They really seem to test their recipes, so I know the proportions will work. After that it is easy for me to make the substitutions since I have so much experience with baking. For this one, for instance, I wanted something similar to pound cake, so I used the creamed butter and sugar base instead of the melted butter or oil. Those give a slightly heavier texture to the finished bread. I can assure you that you won't want to leave out the Irish Whiskey (unless you replace it with bourbon) because it adds a hint of smokiness that is wonderful with pumpkin.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Dried Cranberries
Loosely based on a recipe found at King Arthur Flours

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups (or one 15-ounce can) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Irish Whiskey
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pans.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, then cream in the sugars.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each egg into the batter before adding the next egg.

Add the pumpkin, water,  and the Irish Whiskey and mix to combine well.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat only until barely combined.

Mix in the dried cranberries, if you're using them.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. and smooth tops a bit.

Bake the bread for 60 to 80 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean; and that same tester inserted about 1/2" into the top of the loaf doesn't encounter any totally unbaked batter.

Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. When it's completely cool, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and store it overnight before serving.

Yield: 2 loaves.

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