Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

My desire to crank up the oven is a little out of sinc with what's happening outside. Denver is experiencing an unusually warm fall. The trees are starting to change and the dropped leaves are piling up on my car, but I'm still biking around in short sleeves and the garden is still producing red tomatoes. Normally Denver has seen a few snow flurries by this time of year but we haven't even come close to snow yet. I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get some soon--there is nothing quite like the first snow of the season.

I seem to be on a baking bender these days. I haven't been cooking for myself that much but when I do, all I want to do is bake. Since coming home my main contributions to meal time have been sweet snacks and desserts--fruit pie, zucchini bread, last gasp peach crisp, and now pumpkin bread.

I do love quick breads. They are easy peasy, no yeast required, and can usually be thrown together from pantry items. But they are often just cakes in disguise, loaded with white flour and white sugar and tons of butter. Delicious, to be sure, but not the best everyday snack food. For this loaf I used a recipe from Joy of Cooking, slightly modified. I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose, replaced half the butter with coconut oil, and skimped a bit on the sugar.

I just bought virgin coconut oil for the first time (as opposed to not virgin coconut oil) and I think I'm a convert. It is rich and fragrant and makes your whole kitchen smell delicious upon opening the jar.

Pumpkin Bread adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree

Whisk dry ingredients in one bowl to blend.

In another bowl, combine milk and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and coconut oil until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add white sugar, beat to incorporate, then add brown sugar and beat to incorporate. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add pumpkin and beat on low speed until just blended. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk and vanilla mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Stir until smooth.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about one hour.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Capitol Reef Fruit Pie

It's been a long time since I stopped by here. Sorry about that. There have been many ups and downs and unexpected events with this move. Plus I'm still not in a regular rhythm of cooking here yet. I don't have my own kitchen yet and its a bit strange to try and recreate my old Portland routine in someone else's kitchen.

The first thing I cooked upon arriving in Denver was a fruit pie.

My dear friend S. Compton (of lamb chop fame) was kind enough to drive with me from Portland to Denver. Instead of going the boring old way, we decided to take a few extra days and have a nice road trip. My favorite pit stop was Teasdale, Utah, where S. Compton's brother, C. Compton, and some family friends live. The drive in was gorgeous and our drive out the next day was even more beautiful. I think I might love Utah state route 24. Swoon...

C. Compton made us a lovely dinner and the family friends brought peach cobbler for dessert. The cobbler topping was light and slightly sweet, and the peaches were heavenly. They came from the orchard in Capitol Reef National Park, just a few miles down the highway. Mormon homesteaders had planted the now well established orchards in the park. We were told that we had to stop and pick peaches on our way out of town the next day. Apparently we had timed our trip just right for ripe peaches.

We drove through the park the next day, down a curvy two lane road through red canyons. We stopped at a pear orchard first but they were not quite ripe yet. A few miles down the road we found the peach orchard. At first we didn't find any ripe peaches but we finally found them on some trees near the edge of the orchard. We ate a few up in the trees, filled our arms and a grocery bag with peaches and apples and hit the road.

I wanted to make a plain apple pie but hadn't picked quite enough apples to fill one. So I supplemented with some of the peaches. Both the crust and filling recipes I used are from the Joy of Cooking. My crust required a little more water than the recipe called for because of the altitude and dry air, but it turned out well in the end. I had forgotten the fun of double crust pies.

So I don't think I'll type out a recipe because any old pie crust will do. Toss the fruit with a bit of sugar, flour, and lemon juice before filling the pie. Then bake. That's all.