I was recently asked a question by a fellow American-in-London which resonated deeply with me: did I know a good recipe for pumpkin bread, because the last several she tried out all smelled and tasted like very bad things. Sweet pumpkin things are much more an American affair than a British, and even just finding tins of pumpkin in the UK can be very difficult (or, when you find them, they're two to three times as expensive as you'd expect back home). Messing about with substandard recipes is a hazard on both the wallet and the stomach. No pressure on me to come up with the goods, then.
Pumpkin pie I'm very familiar with making, but I've only made pumpkin bread once in my memory. I was 14 and was in a flush of post-Thanksgiving turkey eating, and wanted to carry on the Thanksgiving spirit through seasonal baked products. At 14 I was comfortable with baking, but my mother's cooking repertoire had changed in the preceding years to shun any use of an oven or stove top in lieu of the microwave. Although I grew up with her baking for us (granted, from packets), once she returned to work it was microwaves a go-go. I would occasionally be allowed to make a banana bread when we had bananas half a step away from being thrown in the bin, but otherwise the oven was cast suspicious glances and only used at holiday times and discouraged at all others.
Just before my foray into making pumpkin bread, my family got a counter-top convection microwave oven - essentially a microwave with a bit more excitement thrown in. The convection microwave came with a recipe book, and within that book was - behold! - a recipe for pumpkin bread. This was akin to divine intervention for my mother: she hadn't wanted me to use the normal oven to bake, so this opportunity to make a convection microwaved-approved baked good meant that my fate was sown. I was young enough then to still listen to my mother, but I now would know better. My overriding memory of that pumpkin bread was that it was rubbery, slightly flat and sunken, fairly tasteless, and shockingly orange.
This would not be the recipe I would suggest to an American looking for a good pumpkin bread, then. So while I didn't have a known pumpkin bread on hand, I did have a favorite recipe for zucchini bread which I figured I could tweak a bit. Zucchini was swapped for pumpkin, cinnamon found itself accompanied by nutmeg and allspice, and I made a simple crumb topping which made me question whether or not it would be gastronomically acceptable to just eat a tray-full of crumb topping.
I made both a loaf as well as half a dozen extra-large muffins, all of which looked and came out beautifully. The bread stayed moist and all the spices come together in a lovely warming medley. The pumpkin, as it often is, was so subtle it threatened to disappear if you didn't concentrate on it; I would try making the recipe with more pumpkin next time to see how that worked out, although I've written the recipe out as I made it. But I will most certainly be making this again, and forwarding it on to any Americans-in-London yearning for pumpkin bread as well.
Makes 1 large loaf or 18-36 cupcakes, depending on size
- 3 C all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 Tbs cinnamon
- 3/4 Tbs allspice
- 3/4 freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- 1 C vegetable oil
- 2 1/4 C caster sugar
- 3 tsp vanilla
- 1 15 oz tin of pumpkin (or 15 oz of fresh pumpkin, after roasting and draining it of excess water)
- 1/2 C walnuts, chopped
- For the topping: (I admit, this is approximate - you may need to even out my measurements, but the consistency when made should by like big grains of sand)
- 10 g butter
- 20 g flour
- 15 g brown sugar
- Pre-heat the oven to 165 C / 325 F
- Sift together all the dry ingredients - the flour, salt, soda, baking powder, and spices
- Beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar until they're well mixed
- Sift dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in batches, mixing thoroughly each time
- Stir in the pumpkin and mix thorougly
- Stir through the walnuts
- To make the topping: combine the butter, flour, and brown sugar in a bowl, and using two forks turned upside-down from normal, cut the three ingredients together until they resemble rough grains of sand
- Pour either into a large, greased bread tin, or into cupcake tins
- Sprinkle the topping onto the bread/the cupcakes
- Bake the bread loaf for 60-70 minutes, the cupcakes for apprx 25 minutes for normal sized cupcakes, 35 minutes for large cupcakes