Peeking out the window, I can see a week’s worth of heavy clouds finally clearing over. They’re suddenly moving fast, and there’s actually a bit of blue out there. For the past week, winter has been announcing its presence – gray clouds, drizzly rain, dropping temperatures. That’s November. What better season to make warm, fragrant pumpkin bread?
My motivation didn’t actually come from the weather, but from a beautiful five-pound pumpkin that was left on my belle mère’s front steps just in time for Halloween. Down in Bordeaux, we divvied it up: she made soup, my mom made pie (taking me straight back to Thanksgiving in the States) and I made bread.
Here were my three secrets: to keep it moist, I used some of the homemade yogurt I had made the day before. Also instead of vanilla, I grated in some Tonka bean. I’d never heard about a fève de tonka until the spice vendor at the local market gave us one to try. He explained it came from Brazil and was the new thing here in France. It could be used to replace vanilla or nutmeg. I grated it into my recipe using a little grater from the nutmeg jar. Finally, I used freshly cracked walnuts, instead of the usual pre-packaged store bought ones – what a difference!
Before mixing up any ingredients, you need to prepare the pumpkin. A five-pounder is not easy to break into. With a sturdy knife (we ended up using something that looked like a cross between a hatchet and a butcher knife), cut the pumpkin in half (or quarters) and gut it. Then, cut it into smaller pieces (quarters or thirds) and bake until fairly soft. You should be able to remove the skin easily. Trying to remove the skin without cooking it first is impossible!
A note about the rising agent: since I wasn’t baking in my kitchen (infused with a combination of French and American equipment and ingredients) I didn’t have any baking powder. Instead, I gave “levure chimique” yet another a try. This is what one generally uses for baked goods over here. In the past, I didn’t have much luck with it and I figured out why: I was trying to replace my trusty baking powder with it amount for amount. This time, I read the directions and figured out how much “levure chimique” I needed based on the amount of flour I was using. It actually worked. If I were to use baking powder, I’d probably put in about 1 teaspoon.
This bread turned out being extremely moist (didn’t dry out after several days) and filled the house with holiday spices. If I get my hands on another pumpkin, it’d be hard to resist making this bread again.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 package “levure chimique” (1 teaspoon baking powder)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated Tonka bean
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup walnuts
100 grams melted butter
300 grams cooked pumpkin
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1. Mix dry and wet ingredients separately.
2. Combine. Do not overmix.
3. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for about 35 minutes. A knife should come out almost clean.
Now I’m hungry!