People, I am officially getting on the pumpkin bandwagon. When I just came to this country, many years ago, using pumpkin in sweets sounded like another one of those wacky American ideas (along with PB&J sandwiches, cottage cheese and alfalfa, though the last one probably sounds wacky to anyone who doesn't live in California). It took me all the way until last year (I KNOW, what was I thinking?) to try a pumpkin dessert, and luckily for me, it was a pumpkin cheesecake. I don't have to tell you how insanely awesome that is, right? Just thinking about it is making me drool.
There is something about pumpkin puree that is quintessentially fall, its gentle aroma wafting through the house just as the wind beats against windows and doors and ruffles the dry leaves. Snuggled on the couch during one such evening, I was flipping through Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking, and I saw the recipe for pumpkin muffins, and I knew that this was going to be my first pumpkin dessert experiment. The recipe seemed very straightforward, not fussy at all. I liked that -- I like food that can make you feel great but still remain a background for good friends and good conversation. Oh, how glad I am that I made this! This is a bread that has to be eaten warm, maybe even with a dollop of spiced whipped cream, and surrounded by a spread of all my favorite fall fruit - persimmons, apples and pomegranates. I substituted black currants for raisins, upped the nutmeg and added a dollop of brandy (hey, don't judge me), which gave this unassuming quickbread a nice flavor kick. Not too moist and not too dry, this is a perfect tea cake. Almost absentmindedly, the four of us went through most of the loaf in a few hours, chased by a few small glasses of delicious Framboise (right, like I said, "tea cake"). I can tell you that I was very happy with the way it all turned out and will gladly repeat the experiment. Pumpkin cheesecake -- here I come!
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Pumpkin Muffins recipe)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of allspice
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup black currants (or raisins)
1/2 cup chopped pecans of walnuts
2 T brandy
Preheat oven to 400F. Butter or spray your mold. Soak the black currants in about a cup of boiling water until soft and plump.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In a mixer bowl, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add sugar and continue to beat until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Beat in the vanilla and the brandy. Lower mixer speed and incorporate the pumpkin and the buttermilk. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in a steady stream, mixing only until incorporated (don't overmix!).
Drain the black currants and, with a rubber spatula, stir in the currants and the chopped nuts. Pour into a loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.