Yesterday, my mom texted me to say that it was very fall-ish in Portland and that she accidentally-on-purpose bought a pumpkin loaf from New Seasons (a wonderland of a grocery store with an irresistible bakery). I wrote back to say that I had pumpkins on my front stoop, but it was hitting 90° in Springfield this week. Hardly fall-ish. But this morning on my walk, before the sun could crank up the temperature, I caught a faint scent of fallen leaves and noticed that the light was just slightly different than it was a couple of weeks ago. And suddenly I needed to get myself a pumpkin loaf, too.
We have no shortage of pumpkin posts here on butter poached (these muffins, and these, and these, a parfait, and even a stew), but there’s always room for more pumpkin, right? This recipe is one I’ve been making since it appeared in a 2008 issue of Gourmet. It showed up in an article about Gourmet’s new “Cookbook Club” feature in which the magazine would share a blurb about a new cookbook each month and include a recipe. The inaugural book was The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet and the featured recipe was Pumpkin Walnut Bread. I immediately wanted to make it (and buy the cookbook, of course). Back then, I had only just started to cook with frequency and I remember feeling like I was buying half of the spice aisle for one little loaf. The end result was worth it, though. The bread was warmly spiced with a slightly different combination than traditional pumpkin pie spice (cloves replace nutmeg). It was tender and homey with a satisfyingly crunchy top.
I knew before I even got home from my walk this morning that I was going to be making this pumpkin bread. I’ve been seeing some exciting pumpkin baked goods on Instagram and Pinterest lately…things stuffed with sweetened cream cheese, various streusel situations, but I was craving my simple classic bread. I even had all of the ingredients on hand (quite a change from eight years ago) except for the ground cloves. I made it anyway and it was just as comforting, tasty, and autumnal as I remembered it…even if I ate it wearing shorts and a teeshirt in the air conditioning instead of bundled in a sweater by a crackling fire. The weather can deny that it’s fall for as long as it likes, but I’m all in.
pumpkin walnut bread
adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup water
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
½ cup neutral-flavored oil (like canola)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350°F and center an oven rack. Place walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and starting to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Prepare a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan: spray the inside of the pan with cooking spray, then place a piece of parchment paper in the pan so that there is a 1-inch overhang on each of the long sides of the pan (this helps when removing the finished loaf). Spray the parchment with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the water. Add the sugar and whisk again until well combined. Add the pumpkin puree, oil, and vanilla, and whisk until thoroughly mixed.
Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the walnuts and stir until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a long toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then use the parchment paper to remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool completely on a rack.
Will keep, well-wrapped, for two days at room temperature or for 4 days in the refrigerator.