Sunday, October 18, 2009

A great way to raise dough: Pumpkin Bread

During college, I started a group called Eco-Reach. It was/is a great organization that connects undergraduate and graduate students and professors in the University of Georgia Institute of Ecology (and other related departments) with local schools and community groups in the Athens area to teach kids science and environmental awareness in a way that is, perhaps, a bit more interdisciplinary. My favorite program was one I developed on fall leaves from a variety of sources. We talked about the pigments in leaves (what elementary school kid doesn't like learning big words like "chlorophyll" and "anthocyanin"?) and used coffee filters to perform basic chromatography. We did the leaf dance that demonstrated the life cycles of trees from seed to tree to decomposition - so fun! And best of all, we used grated up crayons, wax paper, irons, and beautiful fall leaves to make art projects, which was, of course, my favorite part!

Of course, grated up crayons can be expensive, so we quickly determined that we should hold fundraisers, and because of limitations on what we could do as students, we started holding bake sales. I made the mistake early on of baking many loaves of pumpkin bread for the bake sales, and pretty soon, I wasn't allowed to bring anything else to bake sales, pot lucks, or any other Institute gatherings, despite assurances to my friends that I was really capable of so much more. It became so extreme that I went several years without being able to make pumpkin bread because I was so tired of it, but luckily, that period is over. Besides, it is a simple, delicious, easy-to-use-ingredients-in-your-pantry recipe, so there could be worse things! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, scanted
4 large eggs
1 16 oz. can pumpkin (I think they've only sold 15 oz. cans for at least 10 years, but...whatever - that works fine)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

2/3 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two loaf pans. Put sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and pumpkin in a medium bowl and beat to blend. Combine remaining ingredients EXCEPT water in a large bowl and mix. Stir pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and blend. Slowly add warm water and stir until homogeneous. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately one hour until golden brown and done. (To test doneness, insert clean, dry knife into center of bread. If it is clean when removed, the bread is done.) Cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Remove bread from the pans and finish cooling on wire racks.

If I'm really feeling fancy, I like to serve this sweet bread with pumpkin whipped cream. Simply make slightly sweetened whipped cream and fold in 3 tablespoons of pumpkin (and if I'm doing this, I put a little extra pumpkin in the bread recipe to make up for that extra ounce!). Cut bread into rectangles and place on a platter around the bowl of whipped cream.

For some fun articles about Eco-Reach (including one with a picture of me in college), check out these links:

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