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It’s easy to open a can of pumpkin and use it in your favorite recipe but it’s nice to use fresh. It’s yours, you made it, and it likely has a higher vitamin content. Maybe your pumpkins came from the garden but even if you bought them at the farmers’ market, you can make fresh pumpkin puree for less than canned from the store.
While we’re biased toward fresh pumpkin, quite frankly, in many recipes we have a hard time telling the difference between fresh and canned. And we often use commercially canned pumpkin for the convenience.
There are two ways to use fresh pumpkin in your baking: grated or pureed. If you add grated pumpkin, you will have flecks of deep orange color and the bits of pumpkin tend to give a chewier texture. The other way is to add pumpkin purée. Here’s how to make pumpkin puree for your favorite recipe:
- Cut a sugar or pie pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds. Place the halves in a baking pan, flesh side down with 3/4-inch of water in the pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees or until the flesh is tender. (For small quantities, you can cook the pumpkin in the microwave.)
- Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it without burning yourself. Scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin and place it in a blender, mill or food processor. Process until smooth.
- Often, especially from smaller or immature pumpkins, the puree will not be thick enough—a spoon should stand upright in the puree. To thicken, place the puree in a saucepan and cook, stirring often, until the puree becomes thicker.
Use as you would canned pumpkin. Extra puree freezes well.
In the interest of time, we often microwave slabs of pumpkin and have even steamed pumpkin rather than waiting for pumpkin to bake in the oven. It works. But, baking tends to dry the pumpkin making for thicker puree. If you use microwave-cooked pumpkin, be prepared for a thinner puree or cook it down on the stovetop.
In some recipes, it doesn’t matter whether the puree is thin. If you add a thin puree to a yeasted bread recipe, you’ll have to add a little more flour to compensate. That’s not a problem. If you are making pancakes, the thinner puree just means less water or milk to get the same consistency. On the other hand, if you are making cookies or scones or muffins, balance matters. You can add more flour or less liquid and it may turn out okay but you won’t know without trying.
In the following bread recipe, you may use a thinner puree. Just be prepared to adjust the amount of flour that you use to accommodate different moisture contents of the pumpkin purée.
October Pumpkin Bread Recipe
Pumpkin makes a wonderful addition to bread, adding color, nutrition, and flavor. This is wonderful bread. If you like, you can substitute up to three cups of whole wheat flour for the white bread flour. We like golden raisins in this bread but you can use dark raisins or leave them out altogether.
This bread is not sweet like a dessert bread. You can add more sugar if you like. You can also add one cup of chopped walnuts.
Incidentally, try this bread toasted with Red Currant Jelly. It is terrific!
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups white bread flour (you can substitute up to 3 cups whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 seven-gram packet of instant yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water, 110 degrees
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup puréed pumpkin or canned pumpkin
1/2 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups raisins, golden raisins, or currants
- Place half the bread flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand-type mixer. Add the warm water and beat with a dough hook until it is partially mixes. (The purpose of this mix is to hydrate the yeast.)
- Add the rest of the flour, the spices, the pumpkin, the salt, and the butter. Knead with the dough hook at medium speed for four minutes. When the dough comes together, add the raisins and continue beating for the remainder of the four minutes or until the gluten is developed. You will likely need to adjust the moisture level either by adding flour or water. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn once, and cover. Set the bowl in a warm place and allow it to double in size.
- Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Form two loaves, cover them, and let them rise until doubled and puffy.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done. The internal temperature should be at 190 to 200 degrees. Remove the loaves from the pans and let the bread cool on a wire rack.
Baker’s Note: The pumpkin in this bread makes it very moist. Pumpkin has a very mild flavor and acts as background for the spices and this has a mild bread combination of spices. Add more spices if you like.
About the Author
Dennis Weaver has burned food from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Miami, Florida. He is the founder of The Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho and the author of How to Bake: The Art and Science of Baking available as an E-book or as a Kindle book on Amazon.
Dennis lives in Rigby, Idaho, with his wife, Merri Ann. They have five wonderful children and six beautiful granddaughters.