14 April 2013

Whole Wheat Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread



One thing I'd say has changed a bit about my cooking over the past year or so is that I don't shy away from using good butter, all-purpose flour (unbleached!) and sugar when I know that is what a recipe needs to come out right and substitutions will only lead it astray.

That said...

You know I'm always sneaking in brown and rustic where I can, and rely more on a little oil, sea salt and lemons for seasoning rather than rich sauces. But last week, I brought you my scone search with half whole wheat pastry flour in which the use of butter is essential, and I did not shy away from creaming a stick of good butter into these delicious whole-wheat sables or these whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies. Or um, cutting the butter into the dough of these pop tarts. I suppose I don't mind all the butter if I'm sneaking whole grain flours into the mix.

Lately though, I've been feeling like I've been a bit too reliant on butter and sugar when I know I can also be experimenting with olive oil , maple syrup and even honey for equally good results.


When a bbox of unopened cooked winter squash made it's way into in my freezer in April, I thought to grind up the last cinnamon stick in the jar and make a loaf bread.

A few recipe options came to mind. While we had a great few days (yes, that's all it lasted) with a wonderful pumpkin bread rendition from Sweet Amandine that incorporated both a bit of rye flour and called for creamed butter, I was getting intrigued by the bare-bones basic pumpkin bread calling for canola oil, eggs and water to give it the proper lift, shelf life and moisture. So was the creamed butter a secret weapon or just another option? I then found a recipe with melted butter and another with browned butter, and determined, as usual, there's no right way; the loaf bread is an entity in itself that always proves flexible to an extent.

But when I happily stumbled upon a recipe that looked both well-balanced ingredient-wise--enough fat, and moisture while boasting half whole wheat flour and partly sweetened with honey, I knew it was the one to give a go. Heart-healthy, with just enough heat from the cinnamon and vanilla and topped with pepitas, it is incredibly moist and slightly nutty from the whole wheat. While many adapted recipes feel like they are sacrificing, this one feels very authentic in the way it works; like something out of a traditional Mediterranean cookbook. It's a winner.

The loaf bakes up in just about an hour and is largely hands off. I cooled it a few hours then wrapped the whole loaf tightly in plastic to enjoy the next day. I believe the flavors meld well that way with loaf breads like pumpkin and banana, and the scent of cinnamon was luring from a few feet away the next morning as I walked into the kitchen. Don't skip the pepitas and raw sugar sprinkle atop--they really set it apart here.



Whole Wheat Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from Fine Cooking
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, I used fresh-ground
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/4 t vanilla
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup well squash or pumpkin purée, (canned or fresh and well-drained)
*1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbs. toasted pumpkin seeds 
Pinch of large-grain raw sugar 

* I make my own with 1/2 T molasses and 1/2 c organic cane sugar.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Grease/flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan (I also lined it with a small overlap of parchment in case I needed to lift it in the end).
Sift  flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, oil, and honey until well combined. 
Add wet to dry and stir until just evenly incorporated. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with the pumpkin seeds, pressing down lightly. Bake until the top is browned and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, and the top springs back a bit, about 50-60 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack and then transfer the bread to the rack to cool completely.


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