You know, there's a reason they call certain breads "quick breads."
Because they bake quickly?
No, not particularly.
Because they're easy to put together and, once out of the oven, disappear quickly?
Yes, and yes.
This moist, golden pumpkin bread, a member of our 5-Star Recipes Hall of Fame (a.k.a. top-rated recipes), meets the criteria in spades.
Talk about quick...
When I bake a recipe for a blog post, it can be a long, drawn-out process. Each step needs to be photographed; special ingredients need their individual "beauty shots."
Pancakes receiving a shower of confectioners' sugar, a cake whose just-poured icing is dribbling over the edges, the bubbles around the edge of a hot apple pie...
These action shots sometimes require multiple takes. I take my photos in a north window, which reliably offers strong, indirect light. That window is located around the corner and down the hall from the test kitchen, which means round trips from kitchen to window to kitchen to window, over and over again, as cakes settle and popovers deflate and the melting chocolate chips in that decadent cookie firm up and lose their sheen.
As I said, it can be a long process. At the end of which I might have upwards of 30 or so blog-ready photos, showing stirring, beating, kneading, slashing, dolloping, scooping, sprinkling, shaping, and every other possible action that might require illustration.
As I take the photos and groom them for publication, I dump them into an online folder. When I'm ready to write the blog, I open the folder and start adding pictures.
Funny thing; when I opened my photo folder for this Easy Pumpkin Bread, it contained a scant 11 photos.
My heart sank. Had I forgotten a whole series of steps? Some special ingredients? Had I totally spaced and deleted the photos from the camera before downloading?
As it turned out, none of the above. I carefully went through those 11 photos, and realized every step had its photo.
This blog will be short and sweet, for such is the nature of quick breads. Mix. Pour. Bake.
In fact, your biggest hurdle to making this bread right now might be the ongoing canned pumpkin shortage in the Northeast. Readers in New England are reporting a dearth of canned pumpkin in their local supermarkets.
I was lucky I had a can left over from last winter to make this bread; my local supermarket has been out of pumpkin (and its suitable for subbing sibling, squash) for weeks.
Word to the wise: If you find canned pumpkin, don't hoard; but DO stock up. Thanksgiving is less than 2 months away...
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Now, you have your choice of what pans to use. For two loaves of plain, unembellished pumpkin bread – no chips, no nuts – lightly grease two 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pans.
For the full monte (both chips and nuts), lightly grease two 9" x 5" loaf pans.
For one plain loaf, one with chips and nuts, lightly grease one 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, and one 9" x 5" loaf pan.
If you're going to use either the chips or the nuts but not both, opt for the larger pan, just in case.
There - you all set?
Place the following in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth:
1 cup (198g) vegetable oil
2 2/3 cups (528g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 scant cups (425g) or one 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
2/3 cup (152g) water
Can you use your own homemade puréed pumpkin? Sure. Just be aware that it'll probably be thinner than canned pumpkin, so you'd want to add a bit more flour. Results may vary...
Add the following, beating gently to make a smooth batter:
3 1/3 cups (400g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add 1 cup (113g) chopped walnuts or pecans, and 1 1/2 cups (255g) chocolate chips. Or not.
Or divide the batter in half, and add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, and 3/4 cup chocolate chips to one half of the batter.
Here are my two loaves: the plain bread in the smaller pan on the left; the chip-and-nut bread in the larger pan on the right.
Next, sprinkle the top of either or both loaves with coarse white sparkling sugar. It adds compelling crunch, and a bit of sweetness.
Do you have to add the sugar? Absolutely not. I just like what it does to the top crust, taste-wise.
My fellow baker Susan Reid says, "At the bakery, we put pumpkin seeds on top of the pumpkin breads; it's kind of cool lookin'."
Bake the bread for 60 to 80 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean; and that same tester inserted about 1/2" into the top of the loaf doesn't encounter any totally unbaked batter.
This is the only even semi-challenging issue involved in making a quick bread. Sometimes it's hard to get that last 1/2", in the very center of the top of the loaf, to bake all the way through, without allowing the rest of the bread to over-bake.
It helps to tent the loaf with aluminum foil for the final 15 minutes or so of baking - both to protect from over-browning, and to trap heat right over the top crust.
Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. See how the sugar on top kind of melts and caramelizes?
Be sure to cool the bread completely before slicing. In fact, if your schedule allows, wrap cooled bread, and don't slice until the following day. That's what I did with this plain loaf...
...and you can see how much smoother a 24-hour slice is, compared to this chips and nuts loaf, sliced while still slightly warm – I admit it, I couldn't resist!
Another tip from Susan: Cut quick breads with a vented cheese knife; works like a charm!
One of each is a smart choice – you'll cover all the bases, as far as pleasing your audience.
Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Easy Pumpkin Bread.