The Very Best Pumpkin Bread

I love the color explosion of fall when suddenly poof! the leaves change color almost overnight and then the pumpkins arrive. There they are dotted around town in front of stores, shops, and on doorsteps painted with so many artistic faces. Next comes a pumpkin that roasts in the oven, followed by warm pumpkin bread smeared with butter and eaten with a cup of Earl Grey at teatime. Maybe a surprise visit from a friend will be the perfect accompaniment.

I’ve been making this pumpkin bread recipe for years and love it because in addition to pumpkin, you can switch it up with applesauce, zucchini, bananas, and probably any other pureed fruit or vegetable (though I doubt radishes would work well). Reliable and versatile recipes are worth their weight in gold; they are very much like good friends or a comfortable old sweater with a hole or two in it.

Pumpkin Bread

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ to 1 cup sugar depending on how sweet you like it
Spices: ½ tsp each cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger or 1+ tablespoon any other combination of warm spices
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla or other flavoring (I like maple, almond, and hazelnut)
1 cup pumpkin or other pureed fruit or vegetable
Chopped nuts, raisins, dates, candied ginger, chocolate chips, etc.

Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and thoroughly mix them together. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan. You can vary the size of the loaf —just make sure the pan is filled about ⅔ full; you can use muffin tins, too. Bake in a 350⁰ oven for 35-40 minutes or until the bread starts to pull away from the edges of the pan and cracks appear on the surface. Cool in the pan. This bread freezes well, too.

Last week I visited my dear friend Marge and she had baked a butternut squash so we decided to make this pumpkin bread. She has a friend from Nepal who gave her a spice blend of cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and black pepper. I was a bit reluctant to use the spice blend because I wasn’t sure how the pepper would taste, but it turned out to be a splendid addition. We soaked some raisins overnight in rum and toasted some walnuts in a cast iron skillet. The loaf came out of the oven and with great impatience we ate it while it was still steaming.  We were not even polite enough to wait for it to finish cooling! That was at noon and by five it was almost gone. It was undoubtedly the best version of this recipe that I have ever eaten. Try it! You might just like it.