Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Still-Great Pumpkin

“There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin.” –Linus Van Pelt (from Peanuts by Charles Schulz)

Religion and politics are too hot for me to touch right now (there are plenty of other blogs to get your fix if you need it, I’m sure), but I’m still talking about The Great Pumpkin. Well, maybe not the Great Pumpkin, but pumpkin, and how I think it’s great. Or maybe the great quantities of it that I still have in my kitchen.

I seem to have overachieved in my accumulation of pumpkin in October, November and December, and I had to get back to using it. I think I’m still wearing some of the Pumpkin Pies I consumed over the holidays (specifically around my waist, hips and thighs), so I decided to go with something sweet, but perhaps a bit healthier and less caloric. I was thinking more afternoon tea than dessert and made pumpkin quick bread.

I started with a recipe from Cooking Light Magazine that I’ve been using for years and bumped up the WFQ* with some whole wheat pastry flour (you could use only all-purpose flour if you want). I quite like dates and pecans with pumpkin, so I loaded these loaves up with them. There’s something about the richness and caramel-y sweetness of the dates that make them mesh well with the pumpkin. You could use raisins if you prefer.

Since I felt like I was being so good with this high WFQ pumpkin bread batter, I decided to add just a little bit of bad in the form of a splash of bourbon. Its contribution to the final product is subtle, but I think it adds some complexity, especially with a bite of gooey date. You could leave it out and probably not miss it, and it would be ludicrous to go out and by a bottle of bourbon just to make this bread. Or perhaps a bottle of bourbon would be just the right thing to accompany a daring discussion of religion and politics with a side of pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Quick Bread with Dates and Pecans Recipe
based on a recipe in Cooking Light Magazine

2 tablespoons canola or other neutral-tasting oil
3 large eggs
15 ounces (about 425 g) pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons (30 ml) bourbon (optional)
1 cup (about 4 ounces or 125 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (about 4 ounces or 125 g) whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup (about 4 ounces or 125 g) rolled oats
1 cup (about 7 ounces or about 200g) brown sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking powder
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) baking soda
2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
1 cup (about 250 ml) chopped pitted dates
1 cup (about 250 ml) chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease or oil two 8 x 4-inch bread pans or spray them well with cooking spray.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil until well combined. Add the pumpkin, milk and bourbon if using. Whisk until well combined.

3. In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir together with a whisk until the ingredients are evenly distributed and there are no large lumps of brown sugar.

4. Make a hole or well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture.

Stir with a large spoon or rubber spatula until most of the dry ingredients are moistened. (Some unmoistened flour is okay, since the batter will get stirred further when you add the remaining ingredients.)

5. Add the dates and pecans and stir to evenly distribute them. Try not to mix too vigorously or the bread may become tough.

6. Spoon the batter into the prepared bread pans, evenly distributing it between them.

Place them in the preheated oven and bake at 350 F for about 50 minutes. If you wish, you can insert a wooden pick into the bread to test for doneness. It the pick comes out with no wet batter on it, it is done.

7. Cool the loaves in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans and cool on the wire racks. They are pretty good when still a little warm.

This recipe makes two loaves, but they are shallower than a standard loaf. To freeze a loaf or part of a loaf, wrap it well in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag or other freezer safe container.

* WFQ = Whole Food Quotient

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