The most important news this week is my not-so-little pumpkin, Paddington is officially a year old. He’s already a literary star in the making and I can often find him going through my cookbooks. With an innate drive like this, I can only predict him achieving monumental goals this year and in the years to come, my one hope is that he might take an interest in chasing the squirrel that is a constant source of irritation in my backyard. My fingers are crossed.
The second pumpkin we’ll talk about today is the one that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae plant family, ok it’s a real pumpkin not a Labrador.
Pumpkin Apricot Bread
This week you’ll notice a big change in my style of recipe writing. The ingredients are now listed in the method, unlike my previous newsletters. I find this much easier because this is also the way I write recipes when I develop them. I also want to hear from you, tell me what you’d like to see more of in this style of writing.
A few weeks ago, I asked what you'd like me to cook, and overwhelmingly, squash recipes were one of your most popular requested items. Today we’re making pumpkin bread (we'll tackle squash again soon, I promise!). What I love about these kinds of breads (or cakes if you want to call them that) is the ease by which it comes together and as much as I like frostings there are many times when I do not want to go through the entire process of making it.
I’ve topped of this pumpkin bread with a generous sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. Once baked, they transform into a delicious toasty crunchy bite and paired with the bits of the sweet tangy flavor of the tiny bits of apricot, it tastes like the proper seasonal transition. A sweet little hint of summer goodness moving into the radiant display of fall.
The Cook’s Notes:
This is the second oil-based bread/
cake(see The Chocolate Cake) that I’ve shared in the newsletter and with sweet breads like these, the oil leaves a much nicer and moist cake. You can use the blender method to make the liquid portion of the batter just like I did in the chocolate cake recipe.
Besides extra-virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil also works well in this bread.
There are a few different ways to determine when breads and cakes are done. One way that most of us are familiar with is to insert a skewer or knife through the center of the bread and cake and see if it comes out clean. You can also press the top gently and see if it springs back, if it remains depressed then it still needs more time (don’t press too hard or you’ll end up with a permanent crater). A method that I use all the time and I learned this while I worked at the patisserie, is to get a thermometer and stick the probe into the center of the bread or cake, if it reads 200F/95C then it’s done.
Don’t use pre-toasted pumpkin seeds, as they will toast on top of the cake as it cooks. In the past, when I’ve swapped in pre-toasted pumpkin seeds (and this holds true for nuts and other seeds), the oils inside the seeds turn rancid and start to smell funky quickly.
Here’s a trick that's often used in commercial baking: if you feel the color of your batter is not a brilliantly yellowish-orange from the pumpkin, whisk in ¼ tsp to ½ tsp of ground turmeric to the batter. It will help amplify the color but don’t use more than this or it runs the risk of making things taste like turmeric (that taste won’t work here).
Pumpkin Apricot Bread
Makes one 9 inch/23cm loaf
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
Grease and line a 9 inch/23cm loaf cake pan with parchment paper and a little cooking spray oil
In a medium mixing bowl dry whisk,
1 ½ cups/210g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground green cardamom
1/4 tsp ground allspice
In a small mixing bowl toss,
15 to 20/about 150g dried apricots, chopped
2 Tbsp of the dry flour mix
to coat well. They really need to be coated very well or they will sink like a boat hit by an iceberg during baking.
In a large mixing bowl whisk,
One 15 oz/430g can of pumpkin puree
1 cup/200g packed light brown sugar
½ cup/120ml maple syrup
½ cup/120ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, cold
1 tsp vanilla extract
Add the flour mixture to the large bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk until combined and there are no visible flecks of flour. Add the apricots, fold, and transfer to the prepared pan. Level the top with an offset spatula.
Top the surface of the batter with
¼ cup/35g raw pumpkin seeds
Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the cake is firm, springs back when gently pressed, and a skewer or knife when inserted through the center comes out clean. Rotate the pan halfway through during baking.
Let the bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife along the edges to release the bread, unwrap, and let cool to room temperature before serving. The bread will stay good for 4 days if stored in an airtight container at room temperature. It can also be frozen for up to 1 month if wrapped tightly with clingfilm and kept in an airtight ziptop bag.
Last week I spoke with Wall Street Journal columnist Jane Black about ghee and all the wonderful things it can do in the kitchen. With its high smoke point and its caramel nutty flavor, ghee transforms dramatically and for the better. Fellow bakers who want to try baking with ghee, might I recommend the Season cookbook that contains a recipe for an elderflower syrup ghee sponge cake.
Try making the Butterflied Chicken with Chickpeas and Potatoes seasoned with Baharat spice mix, I like to serve it with a quick salad of romaine lettuce, red onion, tomatoes, and cucumbers and drizzle a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and a good dose of ground black pepper. Plain steamed rice is the perfect accompaniment to this meal. Butterflying a chicken will also cut back a lot of time spent roasting and that's something I know we all can be thankful for.
What to read this week: I am a comic book nerd, more specifically Marvel. I just got a copy of The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus and it's been fun to revisit the story and the beautiful artwork.
What to do this week: My phone is filled with photos and videos and I'm at that stage where I need to move everything off to a safe place other than my cloud. The New York Times had a timely article about this too.
Previously on TIACL