Every year around the holidays I give away baked goods. It’s not an original idea, I know, but it’s a surefire way to make people happy while avoiding the hullabaloo of the “giving” season. Don’t get me wrong: I love giving presents just as much as I love receiving them. I just don’t love the stressful things that often accompanies gifting: the malls, the sales, the wrapping, the pressure, the credit card bills at the end of the month.
Last year, my gift of choice was cookies. Lots and lots and lots of cookies. This year, due to an unmanageable amount of bananas (some of which were used for scrumptious banana tartes tartin, blog coming soon), I made mini loaves of banana bread stuffed with chocolate and dried cranberries. When two batches didn’t make quite enough, I decided to take advantage of the joys of canned pumpkin while it’s still available and make pumpkin bread. I found a recipe (by Googling “pumpkin bread” and clicking on the first thing that came up) that (4,976) people seemed to enjoy and tweaked it a bit. It was so delicious that I ended up making another 3-loaf batch just for us, to give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning. (Not that it tempts my brother to get out of bed before 2:30pm.) As of today, we’ll have family and guests swirling in and out for the next few weeks, and this pumpkin bread is the perfect thing to have on hand for breakfast or tea. (I’m not banking on my Italian in-laws trying sweetened pumpkin without a little encouragement, so, at the very least, there will be more for me.)
One thing I love about this pumpkin bread is that it’s not too sweet. The moistness is there, the slight spice, but the cloying quality of store-bought breakfast loaves is happily missing. It’s not the pumpkiniest of pumpkin breads, and that could mean many things. Some people may not love sweet pumpkin. Those people may not be worthy of your generosity, of course, but this is the season of giving after all. If you give it to them, they might just give it back. For those who love pumpkin in cakes and pies and other sweets, you’ll be remembered as a gift giving god. No useless gadgets or trinkets from you…just the promise of a little sweetness in a season when saccharine abounds.
Makes 2 large loaves. You can, of course, pour the batter into whatever baking dish you like. Feel free to substitute some of the spices: if you love ginger, cardamom, allspice or nutmeg, they’d all work wonderfully here. This bread only improves after a day or two.
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Prepare baking tins by greasing liberally. In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar with a whisk until combined. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and gently stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Add the chocolate and cranberries if using, stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. (Fill pans only 3/4 full as the batter will rise.) If using two loaf tins, bake about 50 – 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before wrapping for gifts.