This past October, I inexplicably found myself being sucked into the all-things-pumpkin craze that seems to take over the American nation as autumn settles in and Thanksgiving draws near. Like most foods, pumpkin had never been a favorite of mine. Despite my commendable sweet tooth, I was never a particular fan of pumpkin pie, and the only other time I had really encountered the iconographic squash was when carving haphazard faces into its impossibly thick skin oh-so-many years ago. Yet this past October, as I became possessed by the lure of warming and festive fall foods, I mysteriously found myself bookmarking an astounding amount of pumpkin related recipes. Problem was, London doesn't really do pumpkin. I could not find a can of pumpkin purée in this city for the life of me.
After an initial bout of frustration, I took on the challenge of making my own. Really, how hard could it be? And it's so much better for you, straight from the squash rather than stuck for ages and congealed in a tin. Turned out it wasn't difficult as much as absolutely laborious and fickle; the pumpkins I bought produced very little flesh, which turned into watery, rather unappetizing purée. So much effort, such a disappointing result. It took some time, but I eventually came to terms with the fact that my autumn culinary adventures wouldn't be so pumpkin-filled after all.
Weeks later, I stopped in a small Jewish market in north London--the only market where I can get normal, unsweetened applesauce in this town. As I wandered through the aisles, scanning their re-organized shelves in search of said applesauce, suddenly, as if by magic, they appeared: cans and cans of pumpkin purée. Thanksgiving had come and gone, but I didn't care. It was now all possible: pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cashew creme, pumpkin spice smoothies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin lasagna... But first: pumpkin bread.
I'm sorry this recipe is coming a bit late in the season. I hope you'll forgive me. And maybe, if you aren't American, you won't even care.
A quick word about the bread. This is a rustic, hearty pumpkin loaf. It is dense and chewy and moist. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, the spelt flour infuses it with a slightly nutty quality, and the dark chocolate chunks stand out as little bits of bittersweet indulgence. You can absolutely eat this first thing in the morning without feeling like you're eating pound cake for breakfast...because you're not.
I paired my first slices with date-sweetened cinnamon Greek yogurt, which I made by combining Greek yogurt, cinnamon and a date with an immersion blender (an imperfect method, but tasty nevertheless). The tart/sweet combination complimented the pumpkin bread well. I imagine this loaf would also be delicious accompanied by a generous smear of nut butter, particularly a more mild and sweet version like maple cashew butter. I have yet to create any nut butter recipes of my own, but you can find plenty of inspiration (like this Salted Honey Cashew Butter) over at the fantastic Edible Perspective.
Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chunks
lightly adapted from Love + Lemons
makes one loaf
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup olive oil (or 2 Tbsp. oil and 2 Tbsp. applesauce, which is what I used)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup water
dark chocolate chips or half of a thick dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped
mixed seeds or chopped nuts for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F / 180 °C / Gas 4
Grease a loaf pan and dust each side with flour
1. In a medium sized bowl, combine the spelt flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.
2. In a separate large bowl, mix the sugars with the olive oil, applesauce if using, and eggs until well combined.
4. Stir the pumpkin puree and water into the wet mix.
5. In a few rounds, add the dry mix to the wet, stirring each time until combined.
6. Stir in chocolate chunks.
7. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with seeds or nuts, if using.
8. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.