Pumpkin bread bake-off

The 2010 Thanksgiving Pumpkin Bread Bake-Off took place this afternoon. It was a bake-off between recipes, not people (though someone challenged me to a chocolate cake bake-off sometime semi-recently – I am not sure who but I have my suspicions – and that person should BRING IT!).

But now, pumpkin bread. First, I used a new recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (ATK), and then I used my old stand-by recipe. The former uses butter and only a cup of sugar; the latter uses oil instead of butter, and a cup and a half of sugar. The ATK recipe also uses more and different spices, includes vanilla, and is studded with chopped toasted pecans and craisins (dried cranberries) throughout. The old stand-by is pure pumpkin – it calls for cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon, but nothing that will interrupt the consistency of the bread. It’s really more of a cake, but in a bread tin. (Therefore it is a bread and can be eaten for/with breakfast.)

Here are the pre-oven photos.

New recipe:

Old recipe:

The ATK bread came out of the oven first (I’d put it in first, but also the baking time is shorter – 45-55 minutes to the old recipe’s 75). I let it cool for ten minutes in the pan, as per instructions, then turned it out onto a rack to cool for another hour. Immediate points in this bread’s favor for coming out of the pan without sticking! (I greased both bread tins with butter and lightly floured them before pouring the batter in.) But the old recipe earned its points on that score too – I guess I buttered and floured especially well today. The old recipe took nearly double the oven time – 80 minutes to the ATK bread’s 50 – so that’s something to consider if you’re in a rush.

Side-by-side comparison: the old recipe is on the left, ATK recipe on the right. Please excuse the stab marks, I don’t do a toothpick test so much as a knife test.

Old recipe (darker bread) on top, ATK recipe on bottom (lighter; also you can see the cranberries peeking out).

And the results: even after 80 minutes in the oven, the old recipe produced a bread that was still wet in the middle – the knife had come out clean enough when I tested it, but I still felt like it wasn’t completely baked. Could have been: (a) too much pumpkin, (b) use of applesauce (the original recipe made two loaves and called for three eggs, so for one loaf I used one egg plus one tablespoon of applesauce), (c) not enough rising agent (i.e. baking soda and baking powder). So any/all of those things could be adjusted, but I remember this recipe turning out similarly unsatisfactory results (texture-wise; the flavor is great) over the past few years, so…

The ATK recipe is the winner! It is definitely a bread, not a cake. It’s less dense than the other one, and drier, but still holds together well – it isn’t crumbly at all. The flavor is good too – the cranberries and pecans are a great addition. I highly recommend the Family Baking Book from whence it came.

And now it is time to pack for Thanksgiving. Spending the next few days with family, then one of my best friends is coming through town for a visit (yay!), and then, oh yeah, this guy’s moving here…

Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

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