Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkin Season - Part I: Pumpkin Bread

My initial statement for this post is that I have liked pumpkin even before the "pumpkin spice" craze of more recent years. Of course, given that I have an October birthday, I'm not sure that I have had much choice. I can probably count on one hand the number of birthday cakes that I had growing up that did not feature a pumpkin in some shape or form.

In addition to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, one of my favorite pumpkin recipes is pumpkin bread. The recipe that I am featuring is one that my mother got from a friend during the time that we lived in Alaska. We left Alaska in 1971 so you can tell that I have been enjoying this recipe for quite some time. One of the best features of this recipe is that it doesn't include eggs. Within the past few years, I have become friends with a young girl who is horribly allergic to eggs but absolutely loves anything pumpkin flavored. Whenever I make pumpkin bread, I like to be make some just for her. I can usually count on a big smile.

This year, I have found a new pumpkin-flavored treat. A few weeks ago, someone had brought some Pumpkin Spice Oreos to an event I attended. I typically do my best to avoid unusual artificial flavors, but decided to give these a try. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that they were very good. They also make a great late evening treat with a pot of tea (in a pumpkin-shaped tea pot, of course).

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would provide a brief homage to a somewhat famous pumpkin from American literature. Although many of us are familiar with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and its tale of the headless horseman, I would venture to guess that most have not taken the time to read the original text. If you are one of those who has not, you have missed out. I must confess that it has only been in more recent years that I have taken the time to read the original text for myself. I actually enjoyed the detailed description of post-Revolutionary War America in the Hudson River Valley that Washington Irving provided. 

I should also probably interject here that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the first scary story that I ever heard. I remember my second grade teacher telling us the story (I can't remember if she read a children's-type version or just told the story). At any rate, as a seven-year-old who had never heard a scary story, I found it quite unsettling and was troubled by it for weeks to come. I'm also wondering if, perhaps, this stamp that was issued about the same time may have furthered my anxieties. 
So, back to the infamous pumpkin in this story. For good or for bad, its identity is not disclosed until very near the end of the story when the reader learns that when the villagers go out searching for the now missing Ichabod Crane, they find a shattered pumpkin near his hat. The part of the story that I find most entertaining is Washington Irving's choice of words in describing the scene in which the pumpkin takes center stage. At this point in the story, Ichabod realizes that the headless horseman has not disappeared after crossing the bridge, as the local legend had described. Instead, he is now face-to-face with the horseman and perceives the headless horseman about to hurl his head towards Ichabod. Although Ichabod attempts to dodge it, Washington Irving relates that, "It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash." 

However you choose to spend Halloween night, I hope that you will enjoy a fun time of treats, that tricks will be at a minimum, and that no pumpkins will encounter your cranium with a tremendous crash.

Now back to the pumpkin bread recipe:
Pumpkin Bread
3 cups sugar

3 cups pumpkin (one 29 ounce can - Libby's pumpkin is my standby - be careful not to use the canned pumpkin pie mix)
3/4 cup oil
3/4 tsp vanilla
3 3/4 cups flour
3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup walnuts

Beat sugar, pumpkin, oil, and vanilla together. Sift together and add flour, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in walnuts. Pour into 3 greased and floured loaf pans (may use non-stick cooking spray). Bake 45 minutes at 350ºF. As you can see from the picture, this recipe can also be prepared as muffins. I should also add that both the loaves and muffins freeze well.