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14 October 2011

A Little Pumpkin for Your Weekend

Autumn has my favorite everything.

The flavors:  pumpkin, apple, squash, cinnamon (and her sister spices)
The colors: my favorite are the golden leaves
The clothes: boots, scarves, sweaters, all things cozy and soft
The feeling outside: crisp, refreshing, deep-breath demanding
The feeling inside: aromatic, cozy, heater on

The way leaves stamp the sidewalk when it rains, preserving their unique shapes on the pavement.
The smell of mud and grass, and how it reminds me of dirty cleats, half-time orange slices, and slide tackling.
The feeling in your belly as you slurp down a freshly brewed stew or exceptionally percolated herbal tea.
The aura generated by cloud-skirted mountains.

Wool socks. Mugs. Wood stoves. Log cabins. Fleece pants. Flickering candles.

Autumn is me.

I can remember sitting in my neighbor's kitchen when I was small. The windows were a little steamy from the cranked oven, and the light was glowing golden.
We were baking.
Something I had never tasted or baked before: Gingerbread.
Not the little cookies shaped like expressionless little men.
No, no. This was the real stuff.
The kind that's more like cake, that you cut into squares and drizzle with applesauce.
Spicy molasses goodness all warm and toasty from the oven.
I was in autumn heaven, even as a child.

This bread that I'm about to show you will put you in an autumn heaven of your own. I took the idea of my first experience with gingerbread, added some creamy pumpkin, and pumped it full of whole and good ingredients. The result was dense and moist and perfectly sweet all at once (let us remember that the absence of sugar from the ingredient list does not mean the recipe is devoid of sweetness). One slice fills you full. Top it with whatever you'd like, even nothing at all. But I still favor a big scoop of applesauce.

Pumpkin Gingerbread
Inspired by memory

If you're not wholeheartedly keen on the molasses idea, reduce it to 1/4 cup and add more agave nectar instead. Honey can easily be substituted for the agave. If you don't have wheat bran or ground flax seed,  up the flour measurement to 2 cups. Or go buy some! The addition of both adds a healthy fall heartiness.

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup wheat bran
¼ cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon each: ground cloves, ground allspice, ground nutmeg, ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup natural unsweetened applesauce
½ cup molasses (full flavor, unsulphured; used Brer Rabbit®)
½ cup agave nectar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients together and set aside. An easy way to do this is to measure out your flour, wheat bran, and ground flax seed in a two-cup glass measuring cup. Then add the remaining dry ingredients to the measuring cup and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients together until pumpkin clumps are small and mostly gone (a whisk helps).

Add dry-ingredient mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour into a greased 9x5 loaf pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from pan.

Serve in thick slices with a mug of cold milk.

Serving hints:

Butter and a dash of cinnamon
Cream cheese
Bananas and whipped cream

Keeps for about four days on the counter. Try freezing an extra loaf or extra muffins in a freezer Ziploc bag for a welcomed treat a few weeks after baking day. Since each slice is so filling and there's only two of us in this house, I should have frozen half of our loaf so we could enjoy it later on.

Eat your hearts out, autumn lovers!

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