The idea of another pumpkin loaf either makes you excited or makes your eyes roll out of your head. If you’re in the latter camp, I implore you to give my iteration a shot.
Because I like the idea of pumpkin spice things but not their execution, I developed this loaf to be about all the good qualities of the flavor — cloying lattes notwithstanding. I take real pumpkin and roast it with olive oil, salt and pepper to give the puree an umami edge.
The loaf gets a crown of salty bread crumbs, perfumed with the usual “spice” suspects; it’s the ideal contrast to the tender loaf cake. Freshly ground spices do make a difference, but use the pre-ground kind if that’s what you have (but please don’t use pre-ground nutmeg; the flavor is acrid and bitter).
It’s a lightly sweet, kinda savory loaf, at home with butter slathered over the side with a drizzle of honey or with a thwack of ricotta and some chopped thyme. Best part: It’s the type of “PSL” treat where the spices accent the pumpkin flavor, not overwhelm it.
ROASTED PUMPKIN LOAVES WITH SALTY SPICED BREAD CRUMBS
1 hour 15 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.
Why such a strange amount of pureed pumpkin? Because it’s the same amount as one can of pumpkin puree, and if you insist on using canned, I want you to be able to swap it for the homemade version here. In that same vein, you can swap all the spices used in the bread crumbs here for 1 1/2 tablespoons premixed pumpkin pie spice if you don’t have all those called for. Don’t want to mess with the bread crumbs at all? Omit them and the olive oil, and add the spices directly to the batter by whisking them with the flour in Step 3. Because this is a loaf in which I want the flavor of pumpkin to shine through most, I opt for using neutral-flavored vegetable oil in the cake, since olive oil would overwhelm it (and there’s already enough background flavor of it in the pumpkin puree and bread crumbs). Lastly, this loaf is a flatsy-tatsy on purpose. High-domed loaves are beautiful but to achieve them, the texture always suffers for me. I prefer these flat-top loaves, which have a very tender, moist crumb more akin to cake than bread.
1 tablespoon everyday olive oil, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
1/2 cup panko or plain bread crumbs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (see note)
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups pureed Roasted Pumpkin (see recipe below) or one 15-ounce can pureed pumpkin
Flaky sea salt (optional)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans with some olive oil and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
Make the bread crumbs: Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, one to one and a half minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and three-quarters teaspoon salt.
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In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and remaining one teaspoon salt. In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, buttermilk, vanilla and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the pumpkin. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans, then sprinkle each with half the spiced bread crumbs; if you like, sprinkle each with a pinch of flaky salt. Bake the loaves side by side until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of each loaf comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.
Transfer the pans to racks and let cool completely. Unmold and slice or wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to one week.
2 hours. Makes about 4 cups.
1 whole sugar pumpkin or kabocha squash (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons everyday olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Split the pumpkin from stem to blossom end. Scoop out and discard all the seeds and fibrous strings. Place the halves cut side up on the baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil, using your fingers to rub it all over the exposed flesh. Season the pumpkin liberally with salt and pepper. Bake until the pumpkin is very tender and lightly caramelized at the edges, about two hours.
Remove the sheet from the oven and let the pumpkin cool. While it is still slightly warm, scoop the pumpkin flesh from the skins and either mash it or puree it in a food processor. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days or freezer for up to two months; thaw before using.