I love you. Mostly because the orange of your skin and flesh is such a welcome sight in the midst of gray skies and pre-winter vegetation death, and also because you taste delicious, especially when mixed with cinnamon, ground ginger, and cloves. I realize that this note might be as flattering as it is preposterous, but I cannot help but sing your praises. You are the gods of autumn, worshiped and then eaten, and it can’t be any other way, I am afraid, because you are sacrificial gods. Other images have tried to borrow from your glory: spider webs, ghosts, and even pirate skeletons; however, I know, nay, we all know that what makes autumn beautiful and memorable and bittersweet is that we can depend on you to always be there, ready to offer yourselves up and to become scarily empty and hollow, beaten and carved, baked and stewed, chopped and sautéed, so that we can be nourished, entertained, and spooked.
Spiced Pumpkin and Walnut Bread*
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I prefer Saigon Cinnamon)
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup of water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree**
½ cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Lightly coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with canola-oil spray or butter.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and salt until thoroughly blended.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.
5. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Fold in the walnuts until they are evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top.
6. Bake for 55-65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely; do not cut it until it has cooled off for at least 30 minutes.
7. Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
*I found the original recipe on Gourmet and tweaked it to my taste.
**If you use canned, make sure that it is just the plain pumpkin puree, not the sweetened pie filling. Libby’s brand is my favorite.