Pumpkin bread is an autumnal classic, no doubt. It’s always part of the stable of favorites this time of year. I think I’ll be making a vast array of pumpkin bread over the next few weeks because it’s so simple and delicious. This particular bread was born out of my desire not to go to the grocery store. Initially I wanted to make pumpkin chocolate chip bread, but alas. No chocolate chips. Many of my innovations stem from sheer laziness. After much cookbook flipping I discovered a recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread. Seems a little odd, no? It’s a strange combination at first glance, but these two components truly complement each other. I was immediately drawn to the play of sweet versus savory in this offbeat bread. The usual suspects were present and accounted for: eggs, milk, flour, sugar, pumpkin puree, cinnamon. But the addition of cornmeal added a hearty, crunchy undertone and cut a bit of the sweetness.
As much as I adore my trusty, shiny red Kitchen-Aid mixer, it’s refreshing to bust out a glass bowl and a wooden spoon every now and then. This recipe was broken down into two easy steps: dry and wet. The cornmeal mixes with the flour creating a fine dust that turns quickly into a creamy orange batter upon the addition of the pumpkin mixture.
But it’s the walnuts that really make this bread sing. To think, I almost didn’t add them. I don’t know why I always second guess my nuts. (What?) Whenever I see optional chopped nuts at the end of a recipe, I hesitate to incorporate them. I always have to evaluate what exactly they bring to the recipe. I think I grew up generally omitting any optional nuts from recipes, so my initial reaction is to do the same now. But this is completely and utterly foolish! The chopped walnuts are like little gems of hearty goodness studded throughout the loaf giving each bite that extra snap.
There’s really nothing quite like the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. Granted, I started working on this recipe late at night and regretted my decision halfway through the baking time. It’s not recommended to pop a loaf of bread in the oven and then take a nap. The “I’ll just close my eyes for a minute” philosophy generally ends in unfinished homework or burned bread. Fortunately, I was able to keep my lids from drooping long enough to take this beauty out of the oven.
But the magic of the pumpkin bread did not end there. As I waited for the loaf to cool, I pondered the decadence that would result were I to make the, once again optional, honey butter glaze. Optional? Who would opt out of that? A tablespoon of melted butter and a squeeze of honey later and the loaf was gleaming under a shiny coat of sticky sweetness.
Once dressed in its fancy glaze — a sprinkling of cinnamon on top with droplets of honey butter slowly trickling down the golden brown sides, this bread was practically irresistible. I had been adamant about letting it cool completely before slicing it, but that plan went right out the window rather quickly. As I slid the serrated knife through an inch-thick slice, tiny chunks of walnut slowly became visible. The tender golden crumbs tumbled onto the cutting board and steam rolled out from the center in curly wisps. I popped a warm piece of bread into my mouth just as the clock struck twelve, having inadvertently created the ideal midnight snack.