We all recognize the familiar pumpkin bread baked in a loaf pan. But this bread is an entirely new experience: while classically spiced it’s only mildly sweet, and is leavened with both instant yeast and sourdough starter instead of the more traditional baking powder or soda. Even more striking is its pumpkin-like shape: If you’re looking for a centerpiece for your autumn gathering, this is the prettiest bread you’ll ever see.
To make the dough: In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the dough ingredients in the order listed.
Mix until the dough comes together, then knead for 6 to 8 minutes (at slow speed if you’re using a mixer), until the dough is smooth and bouncy.
Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until puffy.
To set up the pan: Grease a baking bowl or 9" pie pan and line the bottom with a parchment circle.
Cut four 18" pieces of string, stack them together, and tie a secure knot in the middle. Holding the loose ends, dip the strings in vegetable oil, leaving the 2" near your hands bare.
Place the strings in the bowl or pie pan with the knot in the center. Drape the ends of the strings over the bowl or pan’s edge, spacing them evenly all around.
To shape the bread: Deflate the dough and shape it into a ball. Place the dough in the bowl or pan atop the strings, seam side down.
Bring the strings together at the top of the dough. Knot or clip them together quite loosely, leaving about 3/4” of slack between the strings and the top of the dough (to allow room for the dough to rise).
Cover the shaped dough and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it holds an indentation when lightly pressed with your finger.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
To finish and bake the bread: Brush the risen loaf with the beaten egg, using the strings to gently pull it away from the edge of the bowl so you can reach underneath.
Again using the strings to maneuver the loaf, reach underneath and use a straight lame or a small, sharp knife to cut a 1/2”-deep line from the bottom of the loaf to the top under the strings. Repeat all the way around between the strings, so you have cut lines alternating with strings.
Bake the bread for 50 to 55 minutes, tenting the top with foil after 35 minutes. When the bread is light golden brown and the center reads 190°F on a digital thermometer, remove it from the oven, tip it out of the pan, and cool it on a rack.
When the bread is cool enough to handle, remove the strings and insert a cinnamon stick into the top for a stem.
Storage information: Store bread, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to three days; freeze for longer storage.
Tips from our Bakers
Don’t have any starter? Here’s a recipe for homemade sourdough starter. If you're making it from scratch, you'll need to feed it for 5 to 7 days before it’s ready for baking. Want a head start? Purchase our classic fresh sourdough starter — it’ll be ready for baking soon after it arrives at your door. Looking for tips, techniques, and all kinds of great information about sourdough baking? Find what you need in our sourdough baking guide.