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.
Pumpkin Cheese Bread
adapted from “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook”
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, more if needed
1 tbsp light brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 tsp table salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup water
3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
1 cup (4oz) medium or sharp yellow cheddar cheese
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (for coating the loaf pan)
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water
1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt, and cayenne pepper. Add the water, pumpkin, and cheese, then stir until combined.
2. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead until it forms a smooth ball, adding more flour if necessary. (It’s okay if it’s a little sticky- you just don’t want it impossibly stuck to the counter). Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
3. The next day, butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan and transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle, then roll it into a cylinder and place seam-side down in the loaf pan. Cover loosely with a clean towel and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume (1.25-2 hours, depending on your room temp.) While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 375F.
4. With a sharp knife, slash the loaf down the center. Brush with the egg wash. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a rack.