Hallelujah! The oven is fixed. The ‘Oven Guy’ came yesterday, replaced the igniter, and now I should, ostensibly, have much more consistent oven temps during baking. In celebration, I made one of my favorite “one-day” breads, a yeast bread with my favorite all-purpose vegetable, pumpkin. The eggs and pumpkin puree in this bread give it a moist, cakelike texture with the delicious but subtle flavor of pumpkin and a lovely golden color. The eggs also work to give the bread additional structure, meaning that even with 100% whole grains the bread does not need an overnight ferment in order to support a good rise and a fluffy texture.
What can I say? This bread is good. Really good. So bake it. Bake it good.
Looking for regular pumpkin quick bread? Click here.
Adapted from Taos Pumpkin Bread in Bread by Beth Hensperger (out of print)
Yeasted Pumpkin Bread
- 1 tbsp (1 package) active dry yeast OR 1 scant tbsp instant yeast
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 and 1/2 cups warm water (105 – 115 degrees C)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree, homemade, frozen, or canned
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp dried, ground chile pepper, or cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 3 cups whole wheat bread flour (hard red spring wheat)
- 3 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour (soft white winter wheat), plus extra for adjustments
- about 1 tbsp melted butter or olive oil
- 1 egg white + 1 tsp water for egg white wash, (optional)
- 1 tbsp pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) for garnish (optional)
- If using active dry yeast, sprinkle over warmed water in a large bowl. Add a small drizzle of honey and mix everything together with a fork until cloudy (if yeast clumps and will not dissolve, start over with a new package). Let stand until foamy and bubbly on top, about 10 minutes. If using instant yeast, you can simply add the yeast and water to a large bowl and proceed to step 2.
- Whisk eggs and pumpkin puree into the water/yeast mixture. Add remaining honey, salt, cornmeal, and 2 cups of bread flour. Beat hard with a whisk, or with an electric hand mixer, until smooth, about 3 minutes by hand or 1 minute with the electric mixer. (Presumably you could also do this with a stand mixer; I never seem to make bread with one, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work).
- Add additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. I usually add 2 cups of white wheat flour, then alternate 1/2 cups of each type of flour, so that I end up with a loaf that is roughly half-and-half of each type of flour. The dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl, but will likely be too soft to knead until it forms a ball and some flour is clinging to the outside.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. (If your ‘work surface’, like mine, is a wooden cutting board, a cool trick for keeping it stable on the counter while you knead to is to place a damp kitchen towel on the counter under the board; the damp towel sticks to both the counter and the cutting board, preventing it from sliding around). Knead the dough, turning the ball one-quarter each time, until the dough feels smooth and springy, about 10 minutes. Add flour as needed, 1 tbsp at a time, but always remember that the #1 mistake in bread baking is adding too much flour (I do it all the time!). Keep a bowl of water handy so that you can alternately add flour and wet your hands in order to knead the dough without it sticking to your hands. You should feel a change in the texture of the dough when it has been kneaded enough; it will feel cohesive and uniform – still somewhat sticky on the outside, but stretchy and supple. If the dough starts fighting you, resisting the efforts to knead it, and feels stiff and intractable, cover it with a kitchen towel for 5 minutes, let it rest, and then start again. You should find that the dough is easier to work with, less sticky, and more pliant after a rest. You can test the “doneness” of the dough by poking two fingers lightly into the dough ball; the dough should spring back and fill in the holes.
- Once done kneading, form the dough into a ball by rotating in a clockwise direction with both hands, pushing dough down and under as you turn (like you are trying to wrap the dough completely around a golf ball tucked into the center of the dough ball). Once the dough ball feels dense and the surface tight, roll the ball in a greased (olive oil or melted butter) bowl, preferably one with high, straightish sides. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot for about 1 and 1/2 hours, or until not-quite doubled in bulk (between 1 and 1/2 to 1 and 3/4 times original size). If you have difficulty in judging the increase in the size/volume of your dough, like I do, consider getting a dough rising bucket; I just picked one up and it’s helping me to judge “doubled in bulk.”
- If you have time, “punch down” the dough for a 2nd rise. I usually turn the dough out onto my work surface, gently deflate it with both palms, then form it back into a ball by folding the corners into the middle and gently shaping with the clockwise motion. You don’t want to be too aggressive here; don’t undo all the work done by the yeast in plumping the dough full of air, but deflate it enough that dough comes back into contact with dough and the yeast can do it’s work once again, form a somewhat looser ball than for the 1st rise, and let rise again. The 2nd rise should take half the time of the 1st rise, or about 45 minutes. When the dough is ready, two finger holes poked into the dough ball will not fill in.
- Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently deflate the dough and pat into a large rectangle or square. At this point, I usually separate the dough and form two batards (torpedo shapes), as that way both loaves will fit onto my baking stone. You can make one large round loaf, two torpedos, two smaller round loaves; anything you want. The general priniciples apply to any shape. To form a batard, pat the dough into a squarish rectangle, with long sides at top and bottom. Fold the top of the dough into the middle, and press down with your fingers to join. Fold the bottom of the dough up to the middle as well, pressing down to join. Then take the top of the dough and pull it all the way over to the bottom edge, pushing down with the edge of your hand; tuck the dough under and pinch between your fingers to seal the seam. You are trying to create a dense, tight loaf with good surface tension, such that it will hold it’s shape during the final rise and baking. Tuck the short ends under the loaf, pinching to seal the seams, and roll the the loaf slightly (with your hands on top, like using a rolling pin), putting pressure on the edges so as to form the torpedo shape.
- Place a piece of parchment on top of a pizza or bread peel (or, if you will not be using a pizza stone, top a baking sheet with parchment or Silpat), sprinkle with cornmeal or flour, and transfer your formed loaf onto it for the final rise. Spritz with olive oil or brush lightly with melted butter, then cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot until not-quite doubled in bulk, about 20-30 minutes.
- Brush the risen loaf lightly with egg white wash; sprinkle with pepitas. Or, skip the egg wash and sprinkle with cornmeal or a light dusting of flour. Make 2 or 3 decorative slashes in the top of the loaf, with a sharp, serrated knife dipped into water. Transfer to the pre-heated oven, lower the temperature to 375 degrees F, and bake until the loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes (and preferably 1-2 hours) before serving.
Yields one very large loaf or two medium batards.
- The original recipe calls for about 6 cups of all-purpose white flour. I have made the recipe with half white flour, and it does make for a fluffier texture, but I much prefer the taste of the bread made with all whole grain flour.
- Any winter squash puree (butternut, Hubbard, acorn, Kabocha) will work in this recipe. Whipped, mashed sweet potato would likely work as well (although I have not tried it), although you may need to thin it a bit with water or milk.
- If you want to amp up the pumpkin flavor of this bread, you could add 1-2 tbsp of pumpkin butter to the dough during the initial mix. You could also try grinding pepitas into pumpkin seed flour; try adding 1/2 cup.
The bread will last at room temperature for 1 to 2 days before going stale. Once cut, store the loaf, cut side down, on a wooden cutting board, wrapped in a kitchen towel, or covered in a brown paper bag, to keep fresh. Like all breads, this freezes well; I try to eat one right away, then slice one and freeze it for my morning toast. You can also freeze the bread dough before the 1st rise, but I never have much luck with that; I rarely get a good rise after freezing.