Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Bread Taste Test

Autumn is my favorite baking season. The crisp air and changing leaves just call out for warm fragrant spiced baked goods. The denser and spicier the better, and nothing is more wonderful than a spicy pumpkin bread!

I have a pumpkin bread recipe that I've been baking for the better part of two decades. The loaves come out dense and spicy but a little fluffy too, and the bread's always been a big hit whenever I serve it. It's called Victoria's Pumpkin Bread, and is a recipe from Crescent Dragonwagon. (I've mentioned this recipe last year, at the end of the TWD Pumpkin Muffins post.)

This year when the calendar turned to October, pumpkin recipes were suddenly everywhere; sweet and savory, pastas, cheesecakes, cupcakes, and soups. I resolutely ignored all recipes for pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bread until I saw Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread on the Serious Eats site. I just had to try it to see if it was as good as my old standby pumpkin bread. Only one way to find out: bake them both, side by side.

left: Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread, right: Victoria's Pumpkin Bread

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The recipe for the Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread was posted on Serious Eats, which is an immensely entertaining food site, and a valuable Twitter contact (because it sends out tweets to things like pumpkin bread recipes!)

- Scroll down to the end of this post for the recipe for Victoria's Pumpkin Bread

- I roasted a couple of "sugar pumpkins," also called "pie pumpkins" according to the method given in the Serious Eats post that accompanies the Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread recipe. Last year I prepared cooked pumpkin two other ways: in the microwave and by roasting cut up pieces in the oven, and I have to say that I prefer this year's puree from the roasted whole pumpkins. It's much easier to cut the pumpkins once they are cooked, and the puree is neither dried out nor watery.

- I've found that homemade puree is much lighter in color than canned pumpkin puree. I like my pumpkin bread to be a bit dark and spicy, so I mixed some canned puree in with my homemade puree, and used the same mixture for both pumpkin bread recipes. The difference in color in the final bread comes from the proportion of pumpkin to flour, and the other ingredients in the recipes.

- In both recipes I used a mixture of 2/3 All Purpose flour and 1/3 White Whole Wheat flour. Otherwise I stuck to the recipes as written.

- The Olive Oil recipe calls for "light" flavored olive oil. I had "extra-light" flavored olive oil, so I mixed hit half and half with regular olive oil.

- I baked the bread on a chilly gray day with a mug of steaming tea at hand. Nothing could be more perfect!

the verdict:

My husband and I both agreed that the Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread was head and shoulders above the Victoria's Pumpkin Bread. The Olive Oil bread was dense, moist, dark and spicy, compared to the lighter spiced Victoria's bread. While I still like the Victoria recipe, I'm going to have to make the Olive Oil recipe my go-to pumpkin bread.

the recipe:

Victoria's Pumpkin Bread
from ‘The Dairy Hollow House Cookbook’

2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground ginger
dash allspice
6 cups unbleached white flour (can use half whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat)
1 c mild vegetable oil
½ cup yogurt (I often use ¾ c oil and ¾ c yogurt)
4 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
3 c sugar (can use part brown sugar)
2 ½ c. unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 c. chopped black walnuts (I never use nuts)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In large bowl, sift together the cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, ground cloves, ground ginger, allspice and flour. Set aside

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the vegetable oil, yogurt, eggs, sugar and pumpkin. Mix until smooth.

4. Combine the two mixtures and beat until smooth. Fold in the walnuts.

5. Pour the batter into 3 8x4 or 9x5 inch loaf pans (no more than 2/3 up the pan)

6. Bake for around 1 hour, or until the loaves shrink away from the sides of the pan and have a hollow sound when tapped. Test for doneness after 45 minutes.


Audrey said...

I was hoarding my two leftover cans to make pumpkin bread, but then I bought four cans of pumpkin at WFs the other day, just in case the great pumpkin shortage returns (plus it was on sale. :) I had this experience with Dorie's rugalach last 15-year-old perfect recipe was toppled in an instant!

Cathy said...

Okay, I'm definitely making this. I was going to make it last week (2 weeks ago?) and then . . . (?) I even bought the "light tastin" olive oil. I thought that your former go-to pumpkin bread was fabulous, so I'm really looking forward to trying one that you like even better!

Laura said...

I was looking for a recipe and you gave it to me, thanks!

I usually make a cranberry cake topped with streusel and I want to try the olive oil cake this year.

Happy baking!

Engineer Baker said...

I love when people do side-by-side comparisons, especially of things I love like pumpkin bread :) Both look fantastic!

Kayte said...

Wow, who knew there was so much difference in looks between the two pumpkin breads. They both look really good actually...and I am usually a one small thin slice will do me pumpkin bread fan. These look great and sound great. Fun that you found a new favorite recipe!

Steph said...

Have you tried CI's pumpkin bread? It's really pumpkiny because the ratio of pumpkin to flour is pretty high. I like that you did a comparison!

Cal Orey, Author-Intuitive said...

as the author of the healing powers of olive oil, i ususally bake with it. however, recently been wooed by european style butter. i, too, fell victim to the pumpkin bakingfest...dark chocolate, nuts, and orange olive oil snagged me.

NKP said...

A winning verdict from Nancy is all I need!
Although feel free to invite me over when delicious baked goods are being taste tested. :)
Looks great!

Anonymous said...

Now you have a new favorite. And I have another recipe to add to my wishlisth.

natalia said...

Wonderful ! In my box I got an entire huge pimpkin so I'll better start using it !!

TeaLady said...

those both look wnderful. But I will have to try the OO recipe. I love pumpkin bread and am always looking for a better recipe. Thanks.

Unknown said...

I'm so glad you tried the olive oil pumpkin bread! I'd seen it on Serious Eats too (love that site!) but hadn't gotten around to make it yet. Now I simply must! Great pics - I especially love the one of the pumpkins :)

Sarah said...

Wow, to have your go-to of such a long time replaced is really something! Both breads look delicious. I tried a pumpkin bread recently from that I really loved, now I'll have to do a comparison with the olive oil recipe! Fall is the best baking season isn't it!

mike said...

Victoria's.... so much higher. How interesting - great analysis between the two! I love pumpkin bread and am always looking for a way to spice it up, make it unique. Recipe copied - and put in the "to make" pile (along with so many others). Thanks for posting, tasting and reviewing!

buy r4 said...

I tried to make this breakfast recipe using your tips. That was made superb. Delicious!
I would like to say thanks. Great post! Keep posting!