Monday, November 3, 2014

Savory Pumpkin Focaccia

I blame the apples. They’re supposed to keep the doctor away, but this year, the apple recipes I got excited about also kept the pumpkin recipes away. I must admit, I have no regrets. And I also must admit that I could happily continue on with apple recipes for another month or so. I do miss my friends the pumpkins (and other winter squash), however, and so it’s time to visit them again.

I also missed this savory pumpkin bread that I used to make every year, but have somehow neglected for quite some time. I did base a Sweet Pumpkin Focaccia on the savory version that I got from Cooking Light magazine, and told you about that, but where, oh where, has my savory bread gone? Since the days have become good ones for enjoying hot soup, and this bread helps make a meal out of those soups, it’s time to bring it out again.

This recipe makes two flat, round loaves of soft, fluffy bread flavored with pumpkin that has been spiced with just a pinch of nutmeg and kept savory with some Swiss cheese (you could use something fancier like Gruyere if you like) and chopped walnuts. Some of that cheese and those nuts are also sprinkled on the top of each loaf to give it a slight pizza-like appearance. It’s all quite delicious. Okay, really delicious. I love this stuff.

I made this bread in a stand mixer using the dough hook to knead, which I recommend since the pumpkin in the dough makes it very wet and sticky. This doesn’t mean you can’t knead it by hand, but be warned about that stickiness. I like this made into two round loaves, since I usually wrap and freeze one immediately, but I think you could stretch and press the dough into a large baking sheet like I did with the Sweet Pumpkin Focaccia (so many years ago!)

Of course, you could leave out the walnuts or try a different cheese or add some herbs or spices, and I suppose I’ll get around to trying such things someday. Until then, I’m still enjoying this bread as I’ve presented it here, which is pretty close to the original (I added more cheese and walnuts). And this, along with recipes for some delicious-looking pumpkin-laced sweets, should keep me in a pumpkin state of mind for a couple months to come.

Pumpkin Focaccia with Walnuts and Swiss
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, October 2005

I use a heavy-duty stand mixer to mix and knead bread dough, but you could mix and knead by hand. If kneading by hand, be sure to flour your kneading surface well, since this dough is quite sticky.

¾ cup warm water (100 to 110 F)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast (1 envelope)
3 ½ cups bread flour, divided
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup pureed pumpkin (canned is good)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Swiss (or even Gruyere) cheese, divided
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, divided

1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer (or another large bowl) combine the water, brown sugar and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

2. Add 1 cup of the flour and the butter to the yeast mixture. Stir with the paddle attachment (or with a spoon if working by hand) to make a wet batter. Cover the bowl with a towel and let stand 15-30 minutes. (30 minutes is great, but 15 will do.)

3. Add the pumpkin, salt, and nutmeg. Stir on low speed with the paddle attachment until well combined. Add 2 ¼ cups of the flour and ½ cup grated Swiss cheese. Stir on low speed until a soft dough forms.

4. Switch to the dough hook attachment for the mixer (or turn the dough out on a well-floured surface if kneading by hand). Knead about 10 minutes, gradually adding the remaining flour. Knead in ½ cup walnuts. The dough will still be quite sticky, but you should still be able to handle and shape it.

5. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray or grease it as desired. Shape the dough as well as you can into a rough ball. Place the dough in the greased bowl. Spray or grease the top of the dough. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let stand about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

6. Preheat oven to 400 F. Gently deflate the risen dough and shape into 2 equal balls. Let stand about 5 minutes. Spray or grease a large baking sheet (you may need 2 baking sheets if yours isn’t large enough for 2 loaves) or line it with a silicone baking mat. Stretch each dough ball to shape into a circle about 8-10 inches in diameter. Place the dough circles on the prepared baking sheet.

7. Sprinkle half the remaining cheese and remaining walnuts on top of each dough circle. Press gently into the dough. Cover with a towel and let rise 20 minutes (dough will not double in size).

8. Uncover and bake at 400 F for 30 minutes or until the loaves are brown on the bottom. Shield the loaves with foil about halfway through baking to prevent over-browning on top if necessary. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Cut into wedges to serve.

Makes 2 round, flat loaves; 8 servings each

Other recipes like this one: Sweet Pumpkin Focaccia, Walnut Buttermilk Bread

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