Monday, September 17, 2012

Pumpkin Currant Spice Bread

Dear Great Pumpkin,

You must get discouraged because more people believe in Santa Claus than in you. Well, let's face it; Santa Claus has had more publicity, but being #2, perhaps you try harder. Everyone tells me you are a fake, but I believe in you. (P.S.: If you really are a fake, don't tell me. I don't wanna know.)

So writes Linus Van Pelt in his annual appeal to the Great Pumpkin, the god of his peculiar idolatry. While his faith in the superpowers of anthropomorphic squash render him eccentric in the sight of his friends (at one point, he remarks that there are three things he has learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin), I can't help feeling that Linus would fit right in here in Massachusetts, where pumpkin worship is the order of the day at this time of year.

Setting my well-established longing for Blighty aside, there's plenty to love about living in the "new" England, and this is particularly true in the fall. If one must be on this side of the Atlantic, the cool temperatures, brilliant foliage, and seasonal produce - not to mention the abundance of colonial graveyards to explore on chilly afternoons - combine to make our part of the country pretty idyllic. And of course there are pumpkins: lots and lots and lots of pumpkins. Beginning in September, these cheerful orange emblems of autumn are everywhere - a ubiquity continues right up to Thanksgiving, when they are rudely supplanted by jolly snowmen, fat, bearded men in red suits, and pimped-out evergreens (which is fodder for an entirely different post). Autumn in New England means pumpkins piled high at farmers' markets, perched on doorsteps, and reproduced in their thousands on sheets of primary school construction paper. In culinary terms, they are baked into pies and muffins, stirred into casseroles, soups, and curries, and pressed into service to add that ineffable seasonal something to all those weird, "limited edition" beers and flavored drive-thru coffees. In short, resistance is futile. So even if you don't subscribe to Linus' belief that "this is the time of year to write to the Great Pumpkin," you can still embrace the pleasantly spooky spirit of the season and surrender to that pulpy orange siren song by filling the kitchen with its aroma of delicious, spicy autumnal goodness. 

Pumpkin Currant Spice Bread 
Dry Ingredients
~ 2 cups all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
~ 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. baking soda
~ 1 tsp. each: cinnamon, ground ginger
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, cardamom, mace
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves
~ ¾ cup dried currants

Wet Ingredients
~ 1 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin (2 cups)
~ ¼ cup canola oil
~ 1 tbsp. each: freshly grated ginger, blackstrap molasses
~ 1 tsp. each: vanilla extract, almond extract
~ 3/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy or rice milk

~ Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and put the currants in hot water to soak for 10-15 minutes.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
~ Combine the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
~ Drain the currants and add them to the dry ingredients; mix them around until they are coated with the flour mixture (this will keep them from sinking to the bottom of your batter).
~ Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix thoroughly.
~ Transfer the batter to your ready and waiting loaf pan, and bake at 350 in the center of the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean. (Ovens vary wildly; mine tends to be a bit slow, so just keep an eye on things!)
~ Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing.


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