Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Aunt Betty's Pumpkin Bread

Disclaimer: If you are on a diet, if you are only eating healthy, or if you're an Al Gore fan and are trying to be a vegan, stop here and go to another post.

Every holiday in my family as I was growing up involved trips to my Aunt Betty's and she is, to this day, one of the best homestyle cooks I have ever known. As kids we would eat the obligatory plateful of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and green beans, but it was only so that we could be allowed the only treat we really wanted, Aunt Betty's pumpkin bread. It would plop on our plate thickly sliced and, as we grew older, with a dollop of lemon curd or a thick spread of cream cheese slathered on top. The tradition continues in my own family, where pumpkin pie almost always takes a back seat to pumpkin bread.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, mainly because you get the benefit of family presence without the aggravation and stress of presents and the money behind them. This Thanksgiving will be one of the few that we aren't with our kids and grandkids, although it seems to be happening more often as they get older and have other families involved in their holiday celebrations, so it seemed fitting to remember the holiday with a rainy baking afternoon. I hope that this recipe will become a tradition of yours as well.

If you're not a baker, the secret to all quick breads and muffins is what is called the two bowl method. This means that you mix all of your dry ingredients in one bowl and all of your wet ingredients in another bowl. You preheat your oven and get your pans ready and then the instant that you're ready to bake you mix those two bowls together quickly, just until the dry ingredients are mixed in and aren't visible anymore then put them immediately into the oven. If you overmix the bread or muffins will come out tough, and if you let it set for awhile they will be dense.

 Aunt Betty's Pumpkin Bread

3-1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 rounded tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3 C sugar
1 C chopped pecans or walnuts
4 eggs
1-1/2 C canned pumpkin
1 C vegetable oil
2/3 C water

 Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. When I make this on the boat I cut the recipe into 3/4 or it won't fit in either my bowl or my oven. A  half recipe will make two small 8 x 4 loaves, a full recipe will make three 9 x 5 loaves or four 8 x 4 loaves. I also sometimes make these in 13oz coffee cans which for some reason leaves the bread without a hard crust and makes nice loaves to wrap and give away. A full recipe will make 3 of those cans. Be sure to wash well and grease well and remove any plastic film labeling.

 Mix all the wet ingredients in another bowl with a whisk. Sorry for the blurry picture here but we're having a bit of bad weather and it's hard to keep the camera still when the boat is rocking all over the place.

Prepare your pans. When I'm using foil pans or regular bread pans I spray them with non-stick spray and then line the with waxed paper and spray lightly again. If I'm using the coffee cans I spray them well and dust them lightly with flour.

Preheat your oven to 350°

 When the oven is preheated, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir quickly with a wooden spoon, just till the dry ingredients are no longer visible.

Divide the batter evenly among your pans and put them in the oven.  Bake them until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. This can vary wildly depending on the pans you used and your oven. If you use dark pans it will take less time and you may have to lower the oven temp just a little. If you use aluminum pans it will take longer, as will the coffee cans. It will take somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes.

Cool the loaves on a wire rack until just barely warm to the touch  and then turn them out and peel off the waxed paper. Resist the temptation to turn them out early as they will crack. These can be frozen and will actually taste better after being frozen, so I often bake a half dozen or more loaves and keep them in the freezer for gift giving at Christmas. Enjoy!

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