Once upon a time there were pumpkins and the pumpkins were lovely, humble things. They started showing up right after Labor Day and you bought one and carved it with a kitchen paring knife. If you felt really ambitious, you washed the goo off of the seeds and roasted them in the oven.
Then you put it on the front porch where it lived happily until Halloween, perhaps less than that if the neighborhood squirrels discovered it. And a week or so later it made its way into the compost heap.
I know I never, ever thought to do anything more to the standard-issue-straight-from-the-A&P pumpkin than that. It never occurred to me to make soup or bread or beer or moisturizer or even pie with it. Pumpkin pie was either something you bought at the supermarket or made from canned pumpkin pie filling, a frozen pie crust and some evaporated milk.
Of course now you can’t go anywhere from the middle of August through the end of October without seeing pumpkin everything. Beer, ice cream, cookies, muffins, muffin mix, frosting (eww, really?), coffee creamer, coffee, Starbucks lattes (again, eww!) and yes, body moisturizer.
I blame Martha Stewart.
And there’s nothing wrong with this, but my problem is that most things made with pumpkin are just too sweet. Way too sweet. Like, “make-your-teeth-hurt” sweet. Even some of the pumpkin beers are brewed so it tastes like “pumpkin pie in a glass”, as one brewer’s advertisement says.
I really like pumpkin beer, but that’s just…eww. Again.
Pumpkin has a great, earthy, warm, slightly sweet taste to it and that’s why it goes so well with the traditional autumnal spices that we associate with this time of year. Personally, I think it tastes better if it’s not covered up in sugar and unfortunately, most baked goods that feature it have tons of it in there.
I’d seen a recipe for a pumpkin quick bread recipe in my copy of “The New England Cookbook” awhile back and when I was in the mood to bake something autumnal and sort of healthy, I pulled it out. There wasn’t a ton of sugar in it, it had only ½ cup of vegetable oil. I subbed out most of the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour (which I’m growing to absolutely love), took the nuts out, added raisins instead and there you go. It’s not crazy-sweet, it’s not loaded with fat and it keeps really well in the fridge. I had the last slice for breakfast and it was still perfectly fresh, even though I baked it 4 days ago.
This is a keeper.
Cornmeal Pumpkin Bread
- 1 ¼ cup of flour (all-purpose is fine; I used half white and half whole wheat pastry flour)
- ¼ cup of yellow or white cornmeal
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. ground allspice
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar, preferably dark brown (light will work fine)
- 1 cup canned pumpkin (solid pack pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling!)
- ½ cup of vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
- ⅓ cup of water
- ½ cup seedless raisins (chopped fresh cranberries or dried cranberries might be good, too)
- Preheat the oven to 350°f. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan
- Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a medium-sized bowl until well blended.
- Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat together the eggs, the two sugars, pumpkin, oil and water in a large bowl until smooth.
- Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk or beat until well mixed, but do not overbeat. Stir in the raisins. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for about 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert it onto a wire rack and cool completely.