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tuesdays with dorie / baking with julia: cranberry-walnut pumpkin loaves

When I read the name of this autumnal recipe, I envisioned just another quick bread, so I wasn’t planning to make it. When I realized that it was a yeasted bread, I got more interested. Pumpkin in batter made me think of the Chart House’s Squaw Bread. Not that I ever figured out what was in it, but the memory drew me in.

There’s nothing like a stand mixer to make bread making nearly effortless. If you recall, my last bread attempt was the TWD whole wheat loaves a couple weeks ago. While it was successful, I also killed my stand mixer. With the help of the internet (for both diagnostics and retail), my ever-handy husband Howard determined that I had managed to strip the worm gear. He had it fixed and ready to go for this week’s recipe.

The pumpkin loaf dough is like an enhanced brioche, where the usual flour, yeast, salt and water are enriched by butter and egg (and, in this case, pumpkin as well). It was very sticky. I had some doubts that it would form a ball on the dough hook because after 10 minutes, it was still rather loose. The last five minutes worked its magic, producing the desired silky ball on the hook. Toasted walnuts, cranberries, and golden raisins were mixed in to stud the dough.

This was a happy lump of dough, and it grew heartily.

After First Rise

I was a little confused about the overnight chill. When I’ve chilled dough overnight before, it’s been for an overnight rise, but that didn’t seem to be the case in this recipe. I placed the dough in a bowl just slightly larger than the deflated dough, wrapping tight in plastic. It had a little room to grow, and when I checked for bedtime, it was pushing against the plastic already. Hoping it wouldn’t explode, I just let it be for the night. Good thing that I didn’t use a larger bowl. Though the plastic wrap successfully held the dough in place, I’m sure it would have continued to grow, if unrestrained.

Next morning, I removed the dough from the fridge to let it warm up to 64F. This was the hardest part. The recipe said it would take 3 or 4 hours. Ha! I think it depends on the temperature of your house. It is early fall here in New England, but I’m playing the game of “how long can we wait to turn on the heat”. Of course, I don’t think the heat is needed at all yet, but the thermostat said the kitchen was 65F. It took all day, nearly 8 hours to get to “room temperature”.

Finally, the dough was divided and shaped into little loaves, left to rise for the second time, and then baked.

My verdict on this one? I absolutely love the texture of this bread. It’s moist and light and airy. The pumpkin’s flavor wasn’t noticeable, but I’m sure it added to the wonderful texture. I felt lukewarm about the cranberries. They dotted the loaves like rubies, which looked gorgeous, but tasted a bit too tart. Maybe I would have preferred dried cranberries, which are usually sweetened. I also like the smaller loaves, great for sharing.

Much to my surprise, I can definitely see making this again, playing around with the spices and the add-ins. It reminded me of a moister panettone, the Italian holiday bread, so I’m thinking this American cousin would make a great gift around the holidays.

If you’d like to make it yourself, you can find the recipe at this week’s host Rebecca’s site, This Bountiful Backyard. The recipe can also be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book, written with Julia Child, Baking with Julia. And, to see how the other TWD bloggers fared with their pumpkin loaves, check out their posts here.

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French Fridays with Dorie: Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

Is it already Friday again? Is Friday really almost over? This week’s challenge for French Fridays with Dorie was Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.

I loved the way this recipe sounded, but I was a little wary because I had tried a similar recipe from Ruth Reichl a few years back which, though it sounded amazing, it turned out flat and flavorless – disappointing to say the least. Melissa Clark also mentioned a Cheesy Baked Pumpkin in In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, which I read over the summer, so this sort of recipe was on my mind. I’ve never been one to give up on a delicious sounding idea, so when this recipe turned up on the list for this week, even though this recipe sounded similar to my previous failed effort, I wasn’t discouraged.

It was challenging for me to fit making this week’s recipe into my schedule. I wasn’t able to make it over the weekend, and with a 2 hour bake time, and wanting to eat dinner at a reasonable time, I wasn’t sure how to make it work. I ended up dicing up ingredients on Night #1, stuffing and baking the pumpkin on Night #2 and reheating said pumpkin in the microwave on Night #3. Not ideal, but it kept me in the game.

I have to say how surprised I was at how SMALL a 3 pound pumpkin is. Maybe mine was small because it was extra dense. I know that I couldn’t cut off the cap with any of several substantial kitchen knives I tried. I ended up using the little saws that come with the kits at the grocery store for carving fancy Jack-O-Lanterns. And, I broke two of them. Mine was one tough pumpkin.

I didn’t stray from Dorie’s suggestions for the filling: stale bread, diced Gruyère, crumbled bacon, thyme, scallions, and garlic. This went into the hollowed out sugar pie pumpkin and was doused with nutmeg-flecked cream. See what I mean about sounding amazing.

The filling was about twice as much as would fit in the cavity (I told you it was small). I put the remaining mixture in an oiled shallow baking dish, poured cream over it, covered it with foil, and baked it alongside the pumpkin for an hour.

My (small) pumpkin only needed to bake for 90 minutes for the flesh to become tender. The sides were actually still quite stable and upright. We had already eaten dinner while it baked, but I did sample the baked filling in the dish. It was crusty and cheesy and delicious.

Tonight, we ate the actual stuffed pumpkin for dinner. It was much better than my earlier failure, but I’m not in love with it. I’m thinking that if I try it again, I might dice up the pumpkin, or perhaps an easier-to-peel winter squash, combine it with the filling, add some cream and bake it like I did the extra filling for a hearty side dish.

I might have mentioned before how much pleasure I get out of cooking something good to eat from the discarded elements of a dish. I make applesauce from peels and cores, and, of course, there’s stock from vegetable peelings or chicken bones. For a snack, I tossed my pumpkin’s seeds with olive oil and a little za’atar and roasted them for about 15 minutes. Yum!

Finally, I wanted to mention the surprise October dusting of snow we got last night into this morning. It was gone by the end of today, but unusual nonetheless. Why do they call it Global Warming? We haven’t even had our first frost yet this fall. Climate Change seems to be the better term.

Find out what the other FFwD bloggers thought about the cheesy pumpkin. Last week, I accurately predicted a mixed bag due to the pissaladière’s anchovies. This week, I anticipate a lot of swooning. You can see for yourself here. We’re asked not to include the recipes in our posts, but the recipe can be found here You can also find this and hundreds of other great recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table