Photograph by Jasmine Wiggins
Photograph by Jasmine Wiggins

Recipe: Browned Butter Maple Pumpkin Bread

It’s true. This time of year is all about pumpkin spice everything.

I’m not quite sure what it is about the bloated, orange gourd. There are so many other varieties of squash out there. Why we are not carving butternut squashes and slapping them into lattes and yogurt, I’m not sure. What is it about pumpkin?

I mean, I guess I get it. Pumpkin happens once a year. We carve that thing and put it on our doorsteps and bring it to family Thanksgiving in the form of pie. It reminds us of warm fuzzy times spent with friends and family, crunchy leaves and crisp evenings. I personally find it amusing that the humble pumpkin is a food trend. Our culture has generated so much demand for pumpkin spice fill-in-the-blank that there is a glut of pumpkin spice products on the market. Over at Popsugar they’ve tested more than 75 of them.

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I will say this. I don’t care that pumpkin spice has found it’s way into everything. Have your pumpkin spice eggnog or fettucine. For one thing, I think it’s a sign consumer demand can and will change the face of the food marketplace. Maybe if we drove the same demand for other things—say for foods that don’t use unsustainably sourced palm oil—those products would start appearing at the market as well. Who knows, maybe pumpkin spice is America’s first flirtation with seasonal eating, even if it is with foods with artificial flavorings strangely absent of real pumpkin.

That is all I have to say about pumpkin spice.

Now, I have created a real pumpkin recipe for you to try. (I do actually have an affinity for real pumpkin). After searching long enough (weeks) and not finding a pumpkin bread recipe I liked (vegetable oil?), I gave up. I made my own. I used real pumpkin, browned butter, and real Vermont maple syrup for a pumpkin bread that is a far cry from the pumpkin spice bonanza.

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Browned Butter Maple Pumpkin Bread

Makes 2 8×4” loaves

1 cup, or 2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups of fresh pumpkin or 15 ounce can of pumpkin*
3 eggs
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
2 teapsoons baking powder
1 teapsoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground clove

*Note: You can use canned pumpkin to save time, but I really like using organic pie pumpkin. I’ve tested both versions and both are great.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on an oiled baking sheet and roast for about 50-60 minutes or until soft.

2. When cool, scoop out the pumpkin flesh and discard skin. Puree the flesh in a food processor. Transfer pumpkin to a cheesecloth-lined colander set inside an empty bowl and let drain for three hours or overnight. You can opt to skip the draining, which I’ve done, but this will affect the end volume. Don’t worry, just pop any extra batter into a muffin tin.

3. Heat 2 sticks of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat to create browned butter. Stir periodically to prevent burning. Butter is browned when it starts to foam and there are brown bits at the bottom of the pan. (About 15 minutes). Transfer to small bowl or to stop cooking. Let cool.

4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium-sized bowl.

5. In a large bowl, whisk the browned butter, maple syrup, and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in eggs followed by vanilla. Fold in 2 cups of pumpkin.

6. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients a little at a time until blended.

7. Fold in 1 cup of walnuts if desired.

8. Divide batter into two greased 8×4” baking pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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