For the first time ever, I will be spending Thanksgiving away from my family. Oh sure, there was that Thanksgiving in college where my sister and I were both in London and we ate the most expensive turkey dinner ever at the only 'American' restaurant we could find (and trust me, that Hard Rock Cafe dinner was not worth 40 pounds). I suppose that wasn't really the sort of Thanksgiving meal we were accustomed to, but at least we were together. Other than that one year, I have always travelled home for Thanksgiving, whether that meant a 3-hour drive or a 2,250 mile flight; the holidays are special to me, and if you have been around here awhile, you know that my family means everything.
***Voting is officially open for this EIGHTH round of Project Food Blog (can you believe it!). I would love love love your votes, and I appreciate all the support you give me! If you like this post swing on over to Foodbuzz and vote for me! Thanks friends!***
This year, when I realized I wouldn't be able to spare the time away from work to head home for Thanksgiving, I would be lying if I told you I wasn't sad. The closer the holiday gets, the more I am yearning for white flakes of snow, long conversations catching up with family, and a warm hug. But though I regret that I will not be at home, I have no intention of wallowing in self-pity. I will be spending the big day with a wonderful friend and her family, and I will get to play with children and eat to my heart's content. Also, I might have decided I needed to soothe my sadness with baking. And sugar. And fall flavors. That's a cure-all right?
So here's the crazy thing, I also have advanced in Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog to Round 8 (happy dance, happy dance!) where we were tasked with creating a baked good with pumpkin. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, and with my longing for home and family and the holidays around the corner, my mind was brimming with ideas. I was certain I wanted to bake with real pumpkin, and my initial thoughts drifted toward a beautiful spiced layer cake. Yet...it just didn't quite fit my mood and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get myself invested in the idea. And then suddenly I realized why I didn't want to make a cake: It just didn't feel like home.
Once I came to this realization, I knew exactly what I wanted: bread. Lots of it. I wanted to get my hands into it and knead the bread just like my grandma does. There is something about putting physical work into make a golden loaf of bread that is so satisfying. And almost as certainly as I knew I wanted bread, I also knew I craved warm, gooey, decadent bread pudding to comfort me. I saw no reason to deny myself from this carb-laden pleasure, and no holiday is better for indulgence than Thanksgiving. I worried that it wouldn't be pretty or exciting enough for you, but I decided to make it anyway. (Gotta do what feels right, agreed?)
So for starters, when I say I wanted bread, I meant I wanted real yeast bread; not the banana-bread or zucchini-bread-type that is really a cake masquerading as a bread, but the rather old-world-style European loaves of bread. I know some people have apprehension about working with yeast, but after years of watching my grandma knead bread and shape hundreds of loaves, I realize that the simple ingredients and oven baking never make exactly the same loaf of bread twice. This is good news for perfectionists like myself, because it means your bread can never truly be perfect, it will only be uniquely yours. And sure, there are a few ways you can really botch up your dough, but following a recipe usually ensures success. Have no fear. That is my motto.
To make my bread recipe uniquely mine, I did two things: First, decided to make my own pumpkin puree rather than use canned pumpkin. As food aficionados, I think many of us might make the same choice, and I can tell you that it was totally worth it. Having real pumpkin amazingly enhanced the taste of this bread and gave it a real depth of flavor. (And I can tell you this for sure, because I also made a test loaf with canned pumpkin for comparison. I didn't tell my friends that the loaves were not the same, and they could taste the difference!) The second thing I did to change this recipe was to adapt it from using instant yeast (bread-machine yeast) to use dry active yeast. I don't know about you, but I only ever have dry active yeast at home, so a recipe with instant yeast is not useful for me. I made a few loaves each with instant and dry active yeast, and both turned out great, and I listed some of the major differences in the recipe below.
As I was making my bread, I decided to really channel my grandma, and make the dough into traditional shapes such as braids, wreaths, knots, and dinner rolls. I was thrilled to pieces with the way they turned out, and I know the golden color and dense crumb would have made my Omi proud.
And do you know what the best thing about this bread recipe is? It is crazy versatile! As you can see here, I made it into four different shapes without any extra stress or changes in the recipe, and then I went ahead and used it for bread pudding. I am hoping that later in the week I can show you how you can use it to make even more things! Ladies, think of this recipe like that 7-way dress that can fit every occasion. Men... think of it like that white t-shirt that you wear everyday for 7 days (when you think no one notices).
(Keep your eyes peeled, I am hoping to have a video up that gives a great visual of how to shape these breads! Stay tuned!)
Ok, before I get super long-winded here, can I just wrap up by telling you about this sinfully good rum raisin pumpkin bread pudding? I originally found awesome bread pudding recipes here and here, but I wanted to make a few changes. Of course, I wanted to use my pumpkin bread, but I also wanted less cream, rum-soaked raisins, and a butter rum glaze. (No, you are not dreaming, I definitely said 'rum' in that last sentence twice, and once I even said 'butter rum.' Are you drooling yet?) Sorry kiddies, that means this bread pudding is not for you, but more of a luxury for moms and dads. If you plan to make this recipe for a family occasion, just adapt it as needed, maybe consider a caramel or vanilla creme sauce.
So I know you want to hear it, just how good was this bread pudding...Not to toot my own horn, but it was everything I wanted and needed and more. The custard set perfectly and was warm and soft, and the bread soaked up just the right amount of liquid so it was gooey, but yet the top still had a slight crunch. The sweet aroma of fall spices during baking was intoxicating (or was that the rum?), and made me feel like I was right back at home in my family's kitchen.
The bread pudding alone was fantastic, but adding the butter rum glaze and also some cinnamon whipped cream took it out beyond amazing. I seriously felt like I melted into my chair when I took a bite. My friend (I won't name names and subject her to potential embarrassment) was actually licking the bowl with the glaze, and eating just the whipped cream and glaze alone. If this doesn't tell you how good it was, well, I don't know what else to say.
I know by now you probably have your whole Thanksgiving menu planned, but if you are hunting for a last minute dessert I would whole-heartedly recommend this. When pressed for time, you can just make it with any old bread and canned pumpkin and have it in the oven in less than 20 minutes. If you want a more elaborate and authentic undertaking, puree your own pumpkin and make your own bread and then give this recipe a go. I can't promise that it will make up for a missed Thanksgiving at home, but I can guarantee you that it will bring a little bit of home and comfort to you.
***This is my EIGHTH entry for Project Food Blog challenge (can you believe it!). For this challenge, we were asked to create a sweet or savory baked good featuring Pumpkin, and tell you what inspired us to create it. For my entry I wanted to channel my feelings of home and family into a dessert that used bread-making skills I learned from my grandmother to make a bread pudding that truly showcases the fall flavor of Pumpkin. I hope you get to enjoy the holidays with your family and friends and that you will be inspired to make a pumpkin dessert yourself! If you liked this post and enjoyed my dessert I would LOVE it if you would vote for me! You can check out my profile on Foodbuzz , view my past entries, and vote starting 6AM PST, on Monday, November 29th. Thanks SO much for your support and encouragement!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil. Using a large knife, carefully cut a sugar/pie pumpkin in half, and scrape out the seeds (reserve seeds if you want to roast them later). Place the pumpkin cut side down on the foil-lined baking sheet, and roast them for approximately 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin flesh is tender and soft. Cool until you can safely handle the pumpkins, and then scoop out the flesh; using a food processor or blender, puree the pumpkin flesh until smooth.
Spiced Holiday Pumpkin Bread
I made this version from King Arthur Flour originally, but I didn't like that the bread recipe called for instant yeast (bread machine yeast) so I adapted the recipe to use active dry yeast which I always have on hand. As I mentioned earlier both the original recipe and my recipe turned out great, and each had these particular characteristics:
King Arthur Flour recipe, with instant yeast: dough rises less, finished bread loaf is more dense, less springy, but more moist.
My adaptation, with active dry yeast: dough rise MUCH more, finished bread loaf is less dense and bread is soft and springy, but less moist.
Take your pick, but both worked great for me! You can find the original recipe on the King Arthur Site, and my version below.
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp active dry yeast, or approximately 2 envelopes
1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, or a 15 oz can of pure pumpkin
egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp of water)
Heat milk to between 110 and 115 degrees (warmed, feels not too hot on the back of your hand) in a small bowl; stir in the active dry yeast, and let stand for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients, and mix well. In a separate large bowl, lightly beat the two eggs, then stir in the melted butter, and the pumpkin puree. After the yeast has been activated, add it all directly into the large bowl with the wet ingredients, and stir to mix. Then add 1/2 of the dry ingredients (flour and spices) from the other large bowl, and stir to mix the dry and wet ingredients together. After it is well mixed, add the remaining 1/2 of the dry ingredients and stir again.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and mix and knead it until it is smooth and still somewhat sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover to let rise for approximately 1 hour (it will double in size). Then, remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured surface, and shape it into whatever you like:
-To make a braid or a wreath, first divide the dough in half, and set one half aside. Take the remaining half, divide it into three even portions, and roll out each portion into a long, thin log (about 18 inches long). Pinch together one end of the three logs, and then braid the free ends together, pinching the braid closed at the end. To make the braid into a wreath, coil the braid into a circle, and transfer it to an 8-9 inch square, lightly greased baking pan.
-To make dinner rolls, lightly grease an 8-9 inch square baking pan. Working with 1/2 of the dough, cut off evenly sized portions and roll them into balls that can fit into your palm (they don't need to be perfectly round, or even round at all). Make either 9 or 16 dough balls (depending on the size of your pan), and space them in the pan so they are just barely touching the sides of one another; they will expand during the second rising time and during baking to completely fill the pan.
-To make knots, follow the same directions for making a braid, but roll out each log even thinner and longer; for me, it helps to roll out each log to a medium thinness first, then cut it in half again, and roll each smaller piece until it is more thin. Cut the thin pieces into ropes that are about 8 inches in length, and tie each rope into a knot, pulling the dough through the knot hole.
After your dough is shaped, cover it loosely, and let it rise for another 1-1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once your bread is ready to bake, brush the top lightly with the egg wash, and sprinkle dinner rolls with chopped nuts or pepitas if desired. Bake bread for approximately 30-35 minutes, until browned, or until an instant read thermometer inserted in center reads 190 degrees. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.
Rum Raisin Pumpkin Bread Pudding
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup fat free milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp all-spice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup chopped golden raisins, loosely packed
Approximately 2-3 tbsp rum
5 cups of pumpkin bread (or any other crusty bread), cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup melted butter (1/2 stick of butter)
Butter Rum Glaze
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup butter
4 tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp rum
Cinnamon Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. First, soak the raisins in the rum for at least 10 minutes. When finished, drain the rum, reserving 1 tbsp of liquid. In a medium bowl, add the tbsp of rum, the rum-soaked raisins, and the first 10 ingredients; whisk well. In a separate large bowl, toss together the melted butter and the cubed bread, then add the pumpkin-cream mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking pan, and bake for approximately 30 minutes (or longer) until the custard is set. (I also baked some in a 5-inch baking dish, and a small 6 oz ramekin, and it all set up great in 30 minutes.)
While bread pudding is baking, make butter rum glaze by melting butter in a small saucepan over low heat, and then slowly whisking in the remaining ingredients. Keep warm until serving over very low heat, or transfer to bowl for reheating in the microwave. Make cinnamon whipped cream by whisking heavy cream to soft peaks, and then adding cinnamon and sugar, and whipping to stiff peaks.
Serve bread pudding warm, topped with cinnamon whipped cream and drizzled with butter rum glaze.