Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pumpkin bread - a visit to Tilo's land of spices

Autumn, harvest, Halloween - what do they all have in common? For me for the last many years I have been living in North America, all these words scream pumpkin. Large, round, bright colored pumpkins come into the market as soon as the temperature goes South. Coming from India where pumpkins were normal sized (= quite small compared to the ones here), these seemed to be on a hormone injected growth spurt. My parents with their love for gardening, always had a home garden with loads of flowering plants and vegetables whether the patch was big or small. One of the houses we had rented had a huge yard and the soil was very fertile. We had many plants that came up on their own such as the 'not so good' pomegranate, 'very delicious' heralekayi(a citrus fruit used in pickles), 'can't eat any more, we are so bored' papaya trees and so on :-). Vegetable patch almost always had green beans, okra, brinjal, greens and pumpkins. While there were experimental ground nuts (peanuts), the green chana (soppina kadle kayi in Kannada) fared well a couple of times. Once a rogue white pumpkin or winter melon or ash gourd as it is called in India, spread all around in the yard and yielded humongous gourds. These were very happily consumed in many a sandige and majjige huli and kasha halwa preparations :-). Well, I digress, that is not the pumpkin I am going to talk about today.

It is that time of the month to bake something with my baking partners. Having missed last month's challenge, I was looking forward to this one as an excuse to bake but was definitely not prepared for the heady spicy aroma that engulfed us as the bread baked in the oven. This being October, Swathi very aptly gave us a pumpkin recipe infused heavily with spices and what a wonderfully flavored bread it was. Now, if you are wondering about the title of this post and thinking who Tilo is, here is a little explanation to set records straight. A few years back I read a book called 'Mistress of Spice' (by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni). I believe it was made into a movie with Aishwarya Rai. The protagonist of the book is Tilo, she runs a spice store in the bay area and has magical healing powers but is severely restrained in her own personal happiness. The book is at once magical and sad but what I wondered most during that reading was coming across that exotic spice store in San Franscisco whenever I went there and getting some magical spices from Tilo :-). When I made the pumpkin bread the other day, I was reminded of this book and thought the house smelled like Tilo's store from the book, at once mysterious and enticing with a combinational aroma.
Back to the baking partners' challenge, as always we were given different options to try and I chose the vegan bread recipe. As Navaratri was approaching and I had other work related things going on, I wanted to make this bread at the first opportunity and be ready with the pictures so I used the ingredients from my pantry. The only change I did was to use honey instead of maple syrup since I was out of it which makes this bread non-vegan but you can always replace honey with maple syrup if you like. There is no yeast in this bread but works with baking powder and baking soda as leavening agents. The bread was very moist and soft, almost tea cake texture. It had enough sugar to satisfy our sweet cravings and I didn't add any glaze on top. The best part was making the pumpkin puree at home, I added whole spices while cooking the pumpkin and it brought out an intoxicatingly spicy aroma and definitely made the house smell like Tilo's house of spices :-)

What do you need to make pumpkin bread?
Makes 1 loaf
1 cup All purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup pumpkin puree (see below to make your own delicious smelling puree)
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tsp baking soda
1/2 Tsp baking powder
1/2 Tsp salt
1 inch piece ginger (or 1/4 Tsp dry ginger powder
1/2 nutmeg (or 1/2 Tsp nutmeg powder)
2 - 1 inch piece cinnamon (or 1/2 Tsp cinnamon powder)
4-6 cloves (or 1/4 Tsp powdered cloves)
1/2 cup oil (I used canola oil)
2 Tblsp honey (original recipe has 3 Tblsp maple syrup)
3 Tblsp water
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (original recipe calls for 1/2cup, we like nutty breads)
How do you make pumpkin bread?
Making pumpkin puree
  • Peel and chop pumpkin into chunks, take about 2 cups of chopped pieces.
  • Take a sauce pan, add the pumpkin pieces, 1/4 cup water and the whole spices (slightly crushed nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger juliennes and cloves), bring it to boil.
  • If you are using spice powders, reserve them for use later on and just boil the pumpkin pieces in water.
  • Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes or until pumpkin pieces are cooked completely and start to fall apart.
  • Switch off, keep it covered until it cools down.
  • Take the cooked mash into a blender and blend into a puree, you can fish out cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves at this stage if you think the flavors have infused enough for your taste, or go ahead and grind them along.
  • Pass the ground mixture through a fine sieve and collect the smooth puree. Use one cup of this for the bread recipe below. I used remaining portion in my pumpkin-celery soup.
Making pumpkin bread
  • Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a bread loaf pan with a coat of non stick spray and sprinkle a couple of pinches of flour.
  • Take a large bowl, sieve the flours, baking soda, baking powder and the salt.  If you are using the spice powders, add them at this stage.
  • Add brown sugar to it and mix well.
  • In another bowl, combine pumpkin puree, oil, honey (or syrup) and water until oil integrated with the rest of the contents.
  • Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, fold in gently with a spoon until everything comes together. Do not over mix it.
  • Add the chopped nuts and mix it in.
  • Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 40 (to 45) minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Take out let it rest for 10-15 minutes before removing the bread from the loaf. Use a butter knife to nudge the bread from the sides.
  • Let the bread cool down completely on a wire rack before slicing.
  • Enjoy with a cup of chai :-)
  • I felt adding the whole spices to make the puree infused the spices much better than adding dry powders but the choice is yours especially if you are using a store bought pumpkin puree from the can.
  • Like all breads, stay away from it until it is cooled down before slicing however strong the temptation is :-)
Linking this post to Baking partners


Swathi Iyer said...

Beautiful Bread, yes baking with spices is always fun.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

wow pumpkin bread looks very interesting with colorful pictures. i must taste it. baked ones are tasty and healthy.

Anonymous said...


beingFab said...

Lovely!! I think cooking the pumpkin with the spices is genius!

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Perfectly baked bread...I liked the way you used the whole spices while cooking the pumpkins..would have surely given a better flavour than the dry powders

Wer SAHM said...

delicious pumpkin bread

Sangeetha Priya said...

oh my, the puree with spices is great thinking n wonderful bread...

Priya Suresh said...

Love always spiced pumpkin bread, i love that u used the whole spices while cooking the pumpkins,thats truly interesting. Beautiful bread there.

Amrita Vishal said...

Lovely use of spices in the bread