Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Time to Cook the Pumpkins.

Now that the elections are over in the United States, it is time for us to get down to the important issues, namely the impending holidays.  With Halloween, also known as All Hallows Eve or Samhain, traditional jack o'lantern pumpkins were hollowed out, craved with scary or funny faces, and a candle inserted to light them up in the dark.  Now while the seeds, once roasted and salted, make a yummy treat, the flesh is not that great for baking, since it tends to be stringy.

While living in Pennsylvania, my mom and I learned from Amish bakers that the best pumpkins to use were the crooknecks. Pumpkins are from the squash family, with this type the skin is easier to peel off, like with butternut squash, and the flesh will cook up easily for pureeing.   The crookneck pumpkin can grow to a large size; the largest we ever purchased was almost 30 pounds, and we got lots of breads and pies from it alone.

Now when making pumpkin bread or pie, you can always find a canister of premixed spice blend in the supermarket.  However, I recommend mixing your own up as you can never rely on how much of each spice is in the premix.  I and my family tend to like extra spiciness, so I can measure out the separate spices and get exactly the right flavoring for us.  Perhaps you like more cinnamon and dislike the flavor of cloves; mixing up your own blend gives you that priviledge.  Another option to making pumpkin bread especially is to add chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, raisins, chocolate chips or a combination.  They can be added into the batter or simply sprinkled on top before baking.  For pumpkin pie, consider adding crushed walnuts into your pie crust mixture for some extra, surprising flavor.

Go traditional or set your own trend; remember you're the artist...I mean baker.  Enjoy!

  Pumpkin Bread


2 cups cooked pumpkin puree or 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and allspice
½ tsp ground cloves


Preheat oven to 350; lightly butter and flour (or use baking spray) three loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together well the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices; add 1/3 of dry mixture into pumpkin mixture and mix well; repeat until all dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet mixture. Divide batter between prepared loaf pans.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out cleanly. Let loaves cool before inverting and removing.

Makes 3 loaves.

Mary Cokenour

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