Friday, October 3, 2008

Weather Changes

The weather is strange today.  There is a clear blue sky peaking out around gray clouds.  Driving to work this morning, the sun was still low and gave the sky a little bit a purple hue as well.  It looks as though it could clear into a beautiful warm day like yesterday, ... or it could rain as it is predicted to do tomorrow.  It feels cool and crisp out.

I love the time when the seasons change.  At the end of winter, I'm always ready for the sun to come out so I can eat meals on my back patio, go to beaches and parks, and wear skirts and sandals.  Now after a nice warm summer, I'm ready for cooler days and rainy days.  Days when I can make lots of soups and wear my boots and scarves; days when it will be pouring down rain and I'll be cozied up under a blanket watching movies or reading a book.

Lately I've been craving root vegetables, stews, and warm breads.  The most recent issue of Gourmet Magazine had a recipe for Pumpkin Walnut Bread that I've been dying to make, so Wednesday night I made it.  Pumpkin anything makes me think of fall, so it seemed the perfect way to welcome it.  

Erica and I used all the sugar in the house that night, making corn bread, madelines, and pumpkin bread.  I left out the walnuts (just because I didn't want to have to go to the store), and because I'm trying to eat more whole grains I added some wheat germ.  I've been eating it with cream cheese in the mornings, and Bobby and Erica can't stop eating it, but I do wish it were a little moister.  Perhaps next time I'll substitute butter or shortening for the oil, or throw in some apple sauce.

Makes 1 loaf
From The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
Gourmet Magazine October 2008

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) water
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 cup (9 ounces) canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola-oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended. 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.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. To serve, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife. 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.

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