You bake all the time, right? So maybe you've experienced this phenomenon and, if so, I'll bet it's absolutely warmed your apron strings as much as it has mine. You're wandering the aisles of a grocery store or bakery, sitting in a restaurant, or maybe even scanning the treats at a bake sale, and someone in your family--a kid, a spouse, a sibling--looks at you and pointedly remarks, "I realize I've become a real snob about cookies/cakes/bread/pastries because the stuff you make at home is so much better than anything I can buy."
In response, you just smile and murmur humbly, "Oh thanks, that's really nice of you to say." In your head, though, you're raising your fists in triumph and shouting, "Yes! Now that's what I want to hear!"
It's just the best kind of compliment for a home-baker to receive, don't you think? I never get tired of hearing that. Let's make snobs of 'em all. Surreptitiously, of course.Are you with me?
About this recipe . . .
Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe, I didn't veer far from the original formula but did make a few minor adjustments. Instead of using ground ginger and cardamom, I omitted the cardamom altogether and used finely diced candied ginger. I added in a freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch of ground cloves, and I increased the amount of cinnamon. Also, I decided to toss in dark raisins near the end of the main mixing cycle and, once baked, I drizzled a thin white icing atop one of my loaves while it was still slightly warm, leaving the other one plain.
This recipe makes a very sticky dough that cries out for more flour than King Arthur indicates, an all too common scenario that will test any baker's powers of restraint. The more flour you add in, the less soft and tender the loaf will probably turn out to be, but the less flour you use the messier and less cooperative the process promises to be from start to finish. Without going overboard, I added in just enough extra flour to make the dough workable once it reached the stage where I wanted to knead it by hand, out of the mixer bowl. So just use your own judgment and, in this case, remember that softer dough equals softer bread.
This fragrant yeast bread is slightly sweet. Great eaten plain when extremely fresh, or toasted and buttered in the days following. While it's baking, your house will smell like a cozy autumn afternoon, lightly spiced. I wouldn't hesitate to make this again.
Pumpkin Yeast Bread . . . with Autumn Spices &Raisins
Ingredients for the bread:
1/2 cup warm water
1 and 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (I used instant, but if you want to use active dry instead, use two standard size packages and proof it in the warm water.)
2/3 cup warm milk (I used 2 percent, and warmed it slightly in the microwave.)
2 large eggs, well beaten with a fork
1 and 1/2 cups pumpkin (I used canned pumpkin.)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola oil.)
6 and 1/2 to 7 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I gently whisked it before measuring.)
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar.)
1 cup dark raisins
2 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt.)
1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used freshly grated.)
1 pinch ground cloves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (to melt and brush onto the top of the just-baked loaves)
For the glaze:
About 2 cups confectioner's sugar
About 2 to 4 tablespoons water or milk
To make the bread:
Generously grease two standard size loaf pans and set them aside.
In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment on lowest speed, mix together 4 and 1/2 cups of the flour, along with the yeast, brown sugar, salt, and spices. Add in the water, milk, eggs, pumpkin, and oil. On medium speed, mix for two minutes. Scrape the bowl and beaters and sprinkle in all of the raisins; mix them in on low speed.
Add in the rest of the flour gradually, still on low speed. Switch to the dough hook and knead on lowest speed for about three minutes, or dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for several minutes by hand, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Put the dough into a greased (or oiled/sprayed) bowl and turn it so it's coated all over. Cover the bowl tightly with a greased piece of plastic wrap, and cover that with a dish towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise until it's doubled, about one hour.
Dump the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Deflate the dough gently by pressing on it, then cut it into two equal portions with a bench knife or a sharp chef's knife. Round each portion, then cover them both with greased plastic wrap; let the dough rest like this for about 10-15 minutes.
Uncover the pieces of rested dough, and form each one into a loaf shape, being careful to tightly pinch closed all seams. Place the dough into the pans, cover them with greased plastic wrap and place them in a warm spot.
Let them rise until almost doubled, about half an hour or so (the dough should rise just above the top of the pan). Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Before putting the risen loaves into the hot oven, mist the tops well with water (or, dampen your hands with water and gently pat the water onto the loaves). Open the oven door and squirt your mister into it a few times quickly (aim away from the oven light). Put the pans in the oven on the middle shelf. Bake for at least fifteen or twenty minutes before you open the oven again to peek at the loaves. At that point, if they appear to be browning too quickly, lay a piece of foil over them lightly. Bake for about 30 minutes total, or until a stem thermometer poked deeply into the bottom of the loaves reads at least 190 degrees. They should be deeply golden brown.
Remove them from the pans immediately and put them on a cooling rack. Melt about three tablespoons of unsalted butter, and brush it generously over the warm loaves; it will quickly soak in.
To make the glaze:
In a medium bowl, stir together the confectioner's sugar and water/milk until it's completely smooth; add in more liquid or sugar, a little at a time, until it's the consistency you prefer. Drizzle the glaze over the baked loaves, waiting until they're no longer hot or the glaze will melt right off. (If you prefer, you could add a few drops of vanilla extract or almond extract in for added flavor, or even a pinch of ground cinnamon.)
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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