Friday, September 7, 2012
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
(For a printable copy of this recipe, click here!)
Yield: Two generous standard size loaves
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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