I like to bake, and I’m always up for trying a new recipe. I’ve made pumpkin bread from scratch before, but this time I tried a new recipe from Smitten Kitchen—it’s called “Pumpkin Bread: The Best.” For the most part, it was delicious and easy to follow, but there were some minor issues that I’ll talk about below.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- One teaspoon of baking soda
- One teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon acceptable sea salt (if using unsalted butter)
- Two large eggs, at room temperature and well beaten with a fork
- 1 cup granulated sugar (see below for substitutions)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour: If you’ve ever made pumpkin bread before, you probably know that it’s best to use a soft wheat flour like this. You can also use whole wheat flour, but it will be denser and somewhat heavier in texture. A gluten-free blend would work great, too!
If you’re feeling extra creative and want to experiment with different flours, try mixing up your blend by combining all-purpose with whole wheat or another type of grainy flour (like rye).
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
The baking soda is essential to achieving the optimal texture of this bread. It’s what makes it light, fluffy, and tender. It also helps the bread brown, which gives it that nice golden color.
The recipe calls for two teaspoons of cinnamon because it pairs so well with pumpkin spice; however, you could use one teaspoon if you want to reduce the amount of sugar in your loaf (because, let’s face it – we all know how much sugar goes into baked goods).
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- How to measure cinnamon: Pour a scant 1/4 cup of ground cinnamon into a bowl, and use a spoon to measure the amount you need roughly.
- Why it’s good for you: Cinnamon contains antioxidants and polyphenols, which can help fight inflammation. It also has antibacterial properties, so it can help fight harmful bacteria in your digestive tract. If you’re looking to add more cinnamon to your diet, try adding it as a sweetener (1 teaspoon per cup) or even using it as part of a homemade rub for meat or fish!
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Nutmeg is a spice that’s most often used in baking, and it also shows up in savory dishes like meatloaf. In addition, it’s an excellent spice around the house because it pairs well with other ingredients, like ginger and cinnamon.
Nutmeg comes from an evergreen tree called Myristica fragrans that grows in tropical regions such as Indonesia and West Africa. The seeds are what you use—they look like large brown nuts (that’s where their name comes from). You can tell how ripe your nutmegs are by how many times they’ve been stored: unripe nuts will be more complex than those ground into powder for years!
1/2 teaspoon salt
I used kosher salt, which is coarser than table salt. You can use either in this recipe to taste. Salt is essential for flavor and texture (without it, pumpkin bread would be bland) but also for leavening: once the oven heats up, sodium bicarbonate in your flour reacts with water to create carbon dioxide, helps make your bread rise. So when you measure out your 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or however much you prefer based on taste), add it until you like both the flavor and consistency of the bread. Add too little, and you’ll have dense loaves; add too much, and they’ll taste overly salty.
Three large eggs, at room temperature
- Beat the eggs before you add them to the other ingredients. Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl with a whisk or fork until they are foamy. If you don’t do this, your bread may turn out dense instead of fluffy!
- Use whole milk for the recipe (as opposed to low-fat dairy). You can also use buttermilk if you have some available. The bread will still turn out delicious if you don’t have any of these options on hand, though – make sure to use regular milk instead!
2 cups sugar
- Sugar is a preservative. It keeps the bread fresh for longer, which is especially helpful if you make a large batch.
- Sugar helps the bread to rise more quickly, so it doesn’t require an extra step like kneading or growing in an oven before it can be baked.
- It also helps the bread brown and gives it more texture because of its caramelization process during baking.
15 ounces pumpkin puree (1 can — 12.8-ounce size)
One can of pumpkin puree (12.8 ounces)
- look for a can of pumpkin puree in the baking section of your supermarket or natural foods store. If you’re unable to find one, feel free to substitute another type of canned pumpkin; however, I recommend using this particular brand because it’s what I’ve found most similar in thickness and flavor to fresh-roasted pumpkin. Don’t drain the contents of this can — measure it as is into your mixing bowl and proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.
2/3 cup vegetable oil
Make a well in the center and add pumpkin puree and eggs. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir ingredients until combined—don’t over-mix! Add milk mixture to dry ingredients; mix until combined (do not over-mix).
Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup melted butter with the cinnamon-sugar mixture until evenly blended; set aside for later use when you’re ready to pour batter into pan(s).
Coat 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick spray (or spray generously with butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray). Pour batter into prepared loaf pan(s). Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar topping (if using). Bake at 350°F for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan(s) to wire rack.
Smitten Kitchen’s pumpkin bread recipe calls for regular ol’ vegetable oil, but if you’re like me and don’t keep that on hand, use something else instead. I used olive oil.
If you don’t have vegetable oil, olive oil works great. Canola oil would be refined too. Coconut oil or butter can also be used in place of vegetable oil. If you prefer a flavorless fat for your pumpkin bread, shortening and lard are good options as well—I’ve also been told that ghee could work well here. A few readers have suggested peanut or corn oils, while one person claimed that she used sunflower oil with success!
Before making the bread, here are some tips for adjusting the time so your house won’t smell like pumpkin spice for days.
- It’s important to note that the baking time will vary depending on the size of your loaf pan. If you use a smaller pan than they used, your bread will take longer to bake. If you use a larger pan than they did, your cake will likely be made sooner.
- You can freeze this pumpkin bread! I’d recommend freezing it if you have any leftovers because it makes for an excellent breakfast toast option in the morning (or late-night snack). To freeze: wrap tightly with plastic or aluminum foil and then place in a freezer bag for up to three months. Thaw overnight before serving at room temperature or reheat in the microwave for 10 seconds per slice until warm.*
Don’t rush the process! The smell of pumpkin bread baking is heavenly, but your house will smell like it for days if you don’t give yourself enough time. Start at least an hour before you want to eat, and ensure you have enough space in your oven so everything can fit comfortably at once (it took two pans in mine). The most important thing, however? Remember to wait until after the first 20 minutes (when the batter rises) before opening that oven door again—otherwise, you risk burning yourself on hot steam or dropping ingredients onto dangerous surfaces!