When I think about Thanksgiving, the bread basket isn’t the first thing on my mind. Why would I want to think about bread, when there’s turkey, stuffing, and pie to be eaten? Bread can be special (some exceptional restaurant bread baskets come to mind), but in my own Thanksgiving history it has usually taken the form of hard, hockey pucks of JIFFY cornbread, often burnt on one side due to temperamental baking pans. Admittedly, I remember those muffins with a certain fondness, but I’m not itching to recreate them.
What i’m trying to say is, it’s very unlike me to be baking bread this close to Thanksgiving. But when a friend asked if I knew a good recipe for yeasted pumpkin bread, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The only non-dessert pumpkin bread I could remember liking was a pumpkin pepita loaf from Pittsburgh’s Whole Foods Market (do they still make that?). The others I recalled were dense and tasteless.
The memory of those latter pumpkin breads made me wary of online recipes (though this no-knead version looks a tempting), so I turned instead to The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook (a current favourite from my collection), which has a Pumpkin Cheese Bread within the fall side dishes. I am thrilled with how it turned out. Can you imagine this toasted and topped with Sour Cherry Spoon Fruit or pepper jelly? Or french-toasted with sauteed apples? Or as a vehicle for mopping up cranberry sauce? Or as the base of a Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich? I certainly can (and have).
Some notes: much of this bread’s flavor comes from the cheese. I used sharp cheddar, but I think medium would be a better choice if you don’t want to lose pumpkin flavor. The cayenne is subtle, so increase it if you want more spice. Check the loaf a bit over halfway through the baking time- if the top is browning too much, cover it with foil.
Next time, I think I’m adding jalapenos.
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