Having not been raised in the U.S, my first pumpkin cooking experience happened by way of Halloween. My husband wanted to get into the spirit of the holiday, and brought a couple small pumpkins home from the store. After they had been laying out for some time after Halloween had come and gone, I thought, ‘why waste? I’ll cook them!’ He gave me a bemused look – ‘you can cook them?’ ‘Of course!’ – I said – ‘They are food!’
Google to the rescue of the pumpkin noob – cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast. In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.
Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and use a food processor to puree.
I have seen recommendations of cooking out some of the liquid from the resultant puree, but I never do this, and find that I like how my bread turns out – very moist and tender. It is also important to note that your bread will taste different depending on the type of pumpkin you choose. I prefer the traditional sugar pumpkin variety for this recipe, which comes from the Joy of Cooking. The recipe is slightly modified to the way I like to prepare it.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. I like to use canola oil, but non-stick spray works too.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine in a small bowl:
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Beat in a large bowl until fluffy:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, softened
1 cup plus 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
Beat in one at a time:
2 large eggs
Add and beat on low speed just until blended:
1 cup cooked pumpkin puree
Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping the sites of the bowl as needed.
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.