When fall rolls around, I want to bake with pumpkin. Usually that means pumpkin pies - I have been in charge of baking the pumpkin pies for my family's Thanksgivings since I was in middle school. But lately I've been branching out. This year, as my food blog obsession has grown, I have saved dozens of recipes involving pumpkin. So far this season, I've tried a few new ones:
Pumpkin Brownies - Imagine a brownie where pumpkin replaces chocolate. This is it. It's not a pumpkin pie bar - it has the moist, chewy consistency of a brownie. This was exactly what I wanted for my fall kickoff a few weeks ago. However, these were desserty enough that it was hard to justify having them for breakfast (and I like pumpkiny baked goods for breakfast!), so the next recipe I made was more breakfasty.
Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffins - I also tried to bump up the health factor. I had just watched a Good Eats episode ("Oat Cuisine"), where Alton Brown expounded upon the manifold health benefits of oatmeal. And pumpkin, as you may know, is a superfood. I thought the combination would be unstoppable, and tasty, too! The end result, however, was far more healthy than tasty. I took my first bite and said, "Wow, these MUST be healthy." I think it was the whole wheat flour. A little dry and just too wholesome-tasting for my book. (I also forgot to put in the chocolate chips (horror of horrors!), so this may have been my own doing.) I don't need a baked good that's a sugar bomb, but I prefer a little more flavor than these had to offer.
Voyages into the unknown are risky. Even when they are successful, they don't always hit the mark. In the end, I was running back to the recipe that has been a fall staple for the past few years: Pumpkin Bread. I have tried a few different pumpkin bread recipes, but this one steals the show. I think the kicker is its use of olive oil instead of butter or some other fat. The result is moist and tender every time, and the spices pack the perfect flavor punch. And it's perfect for breakfast :)
1/2 c chopped nuts or chocolate chips (it is great with nuts, but I prefer it with chocolate)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and spices. In another bowl, mix pumpkin, oil, eggs and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients - do not overmix! Stir in nuts or chocolate chips. Pour into a greased loaf pan. (This time I forgot about the greased part. It still came out in one piece, but I think my success was primarily due to my pan.)
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until tester comes out clean. (This also depends on the pan. I keep insisting on using this ceramic pan, and it is not finished baking at 60 minutes. It looks fine, the tester comes out clean, but it is just a little squishy in the top center. When cut, this area is clearly not fully baked. I tried baking it 5-10 minutes longer this time, but the top was browning so much that I took it out. The gooey spot is still there, although smaller than last time. Next time I'll do this in a metal pan and see if the results are any different. And if they're not . . . that gooey spot is pretty tasty!)Cool on rack for at least 15 minutes before eating.