02 November 2009

The Best Pumpkin Bread (According to Dad)

Every year my father, (usually) brother and several friends head up to Northern Wisconsin to hunt. They have been doing this for over 10 years since they started when I was in college at University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!). Through coincidence, poor planning or fatherly neglect, this trip has always been planned to coincide with my birthday. In fact, I cannot remember a time when my whole family was around for my birthday as a child. I assure you that I have not been permanently scarred by this neglect. Sometimes I think my sister has since she is always very affronted on my behalf. It is something I am just used to, and it really doesn't bug me too much.

It actually all ended up working out while I was away at college. I was over 8 hours away from home, and I was more homesick than you could ever understand. I never expected to be as homesick as I was, and lord knows I didn't tell anyone. I was embarrassed by my own inability to cope with missing my family. I would have continued to hide it from them if I could have, but my older brother happened to call me one October night and tell me that he missed me. He was watching some movie with "a bratty little sister" and he missed me. That was the end of my bravado. I think I burst into tears and managed to sob out to Chris how much I missed home. Now that I think about it, Chris is usually the sibling I want most when I am crying or upset. He can always calm me down - maybe I was just waiting to confess my fears and anxieties to him.

Anyway, back to the annual hunting trip. All of those missed childhood birthdays? They were totally made up for when I got to see my Dad and his friend, Dr. H, on my birthday. They would purposefully drive through Madison on their way to Northern Wisconsin to take me to dinner for my birthday. They usually managed to see me on my actual birthday, which was a great gift. Seeing my Dad for my birthday, talking to Chris, reading the letters that my Mom faithfully wrote got me through that homesickness. So when I think of their annual hunting trip, I automatically think of being away at school.

Now that I am back in Ohio, I like to send some food along with them for their week in the woods. My Mom always bakes bread, makes soup and chicken stock. She also bakes chocolate chip cookies that Chris loves. I have taken to making quick breads. I can pop them in the freezer so they are easy to transport, and they make a quick, delicious snack for the guys after being out in the cold hunting. This particular loaf is incredibly moist and flavorful. The tart bite of chopped, fresh cranberries is a pleasant counterpoint to the sweet pumpkin. My Dad's favorite part? The sugary topping with a delightful cinnamon bite. Make this bread and share it with someone you love - it is worth it.

Original recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook, but adapted from the Amateur Gourmet blog.

Pumpkin Apple Bread (with Cranberries)
makes 2 loaves, most of my adjustments came in the spice section - I increased them significantly
For topping:
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
5 Tbs sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbs unsalted butter, softened

For bread:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsps baking soda
3 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (2 cups) (I have substituted both 1 cup chopped apple, 1 cup chopped cranberries and 2 cups chopped cranberries for the 2 cups of apples)

MAKE THE TOPPING: Blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

MAKE THE BREAD: Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 9 X 5 inch loaf pans. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice into a medium bowl.Whisk together pumpkin, oil, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl. Add flour mixture, stirring until well combined. Fold in apples. Divide batter between buttered loaf pans. Sprinkle half of topping evenly over each loaf.
Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of bread comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool loves in pans on a rack for 45 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely, about 1 hour.


HoneyB said...

Josie, my birthday falls along the same time that early archery begins here in NYS. I never get to celebrate with my husband on my day specifically! It was nice that your dad's trips ended up being where you were at school. It can be so hard for students to be away from home (as I well know!). I tend to be the secretary who likes to take birthday cakes to students who come into our office often.

a49erfangirl said...

I love it up in Northern Wisconsin. Especially near the UP. This Pumpkin Apple Bread sounds fantastic.