Pumpkin Pie Bread or Muffins

Introduction

“the sunny haze; the mellow, rich delicate, almost 
flavoured
air: Enough to live—enough to merely be.”

    —Walt Whitman, Diary in Canada

When the autumn sun melts down the vines, the pumpkin becomes the emblematic orange globe that restores old links of affection. John Greenleaf Whittier asks, “What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye, / What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?” The answer is pumpkin pie bread, which has a rich russet color and moist velvety texture, and which keeps well for days. The not-too-sweet pumpkin flavor makes for a gentle dessert bringing contentment on any day full of autumn longing, or just a perfect tea-time snack. Or toast a slice and slather it with butter for brunch. 

You can use any sweet winter squash, such as butternut or golden Hubbard, or any of the pie pumpkins, such as sugar pie or cheese. You can even use canned pumpkin if you’re in a pinch. The slightly darker gluten-free version, made with almond flour and a bit less liquid, is equally or even more delicious. However, because of its delicate consistency, it’s best made into muffins instead of a loaf. These muffins are a staple in our household. (See the variation.)

Amount Makes

One 8 by 4-inch loaf or 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 small sugar pie pumpkin (11/2 to 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (virgin or aroma-free) or 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus oil for the pan
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups sprouted spelt flour, or 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour plus 1 cup unbleached white all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup pecans (preferably soaked and prepared; see page 29), toasted and finely chopped (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Have ready a parchment paper–covered baking sheet.

2. Place the whole pumpkin on the baking sheet and bake until quite tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Remove from the oven and let cool. Slice the pumpkin in half, scoop out and discard the seeds, and slip the flesh out of the wrinkly skin. Set aside 1 1/2 cups pumpkin flesh; save the rest for another day.

4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8 by 4-inch loaf pan with a sheet of parchment paper large enough to fold over the long edges of the pan on both sides. (You can later grab the edges of this sheet to pick up the entire loaf.) If you’re making muffins, oil the cups of a regular muffin pan, or line them with paper liners. (Or better yet, use a silicone muffin pan, which requires no oiling.)

5. Add the oil, the syrup, eggs, and pumpkin to a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon or spatula just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened. Add the nuts, if using. Pour the batter into the loaf pan.

6. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out dry.

7. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Lift the bread out of the pan, and let cool completely on a rack before slicing.Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Cook’s Note

To make this as muffins, evenly divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, testing them the same way as the loaf. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Variation: Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked pumpkin or squash
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (virgin or aroma-free) or 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus oil to coat the muffin tin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated natural sugar (such as maple or Sucanat)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare a muffin pan as above. Whisk together the pumpkin, oil, and eggs in one bowl. Whisk the almond flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves in another. Combine the two and mix until all of the ingredients are evenly moistened. Pour into the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes and cool as above.

Poet’s Note

The best squashes for this dish include some of the imposing and unusual autumn pumpkins associated with fairy tales, from the slightly flattened, pale-fleshed cheese, to the related Cinderella (a majestic cheese with flame-orange skin). These have buttery, sweet-tasting flesh. The sugar-pie pumpkins—which look like miniature versions of the decorative but not really edible field type—are delightful. Turned up like a Chinese shoe and tasting something like sweet potatoes, the Hubbard squash was named in the mid- 19th century after Elizabeth Hubbard, an American fan of the then unnamed variety. Such oblong varieties of winter squash—and these include the butternut—are delicious too.

Excerpted from “Cooking With the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare” by Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimilla, Tupelo Press