The Least I Can Do
October 7, 2008
Well, well, well. It seems you all are just not that excited about beef stew. A very delicious beef stew, I might add. Sure there was a comment or eight, but most people, according to my site’s analytics, stopped by, took one glance at the stew and clicked elsewhere (I feel sort of like a Wizard of Oz behind the curtain having access to that sort of information, but I can’t resist). Because I had such a fondness for the stew, I was kind of baffled. I posited several theories. Too old-fashioned? Jumping the gun with full-on winter fare when we’ve only just ushered in October? Many of you are vegetarians? All these hypotheses are plausible, I suppose. But I don’t think any of them gets it quite right.
No, I think you, like me, are still transfixed by the homemade pumpkin puree that I showed you last Friday—the plump folds of silken pumpkin flesh, vibrantly orange and full of promise. The photos of the pumpkin roasting and pureeing sat atop this page all weekend. And I bet you thought that, come Monday at the latest, I would deliver on my promise of bringing you, and I quote, “baked pumpkin goods galore.” And when I didn’t, you responded with a boycott of sorts. No pumpkin, you said, then no enthusiasm for a measly beef stew. Nada. Crickets! And, well done: the silence was deafening.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
So I come to you today to extend an olive branch. And a loaf of pumpkin bread too. And I really hope that will break the impasse. Oh, and I sweetened the deal with fat bittersweet chocolate chips, because that certainly can’t hurt. I think we can all agree that it’s time to forget the beef stew incident and get back to the pumpkin. (But, for the record, I highly suggest you re-visit the beef stew once you’ve had your fill of pumpkin.)
When I first made the pumpkin puree, my mind was awash with recipe ideas. They were mainly sweet: pumpkin scones, pancakes, blondies, cookies, cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. But some of your comments persuaded me that I shouldn’t have so quickly dismissed the savory directions in which the pumpkin could go: orange-bellied ravioli swathed in brown butter, a mashed potato-esque side dish (maybe enriched with a swirl of mascarpone and spiced up with a pinch of cayenne?), risotto. I’d made none of these things before and boy was I thrilled by the possibilities.
But … in the end I was lured in by the chocolate chip-pumpkin bread—so tender and gently spiced, its top split by a homey, rustic fault line—I’ve made the last couple autumns. For the past two Septembers, Octobers and Novembers, our usual banana bread has had to step aside in favor of this quick bread. Last fall, apparently finding myself with too much time on my hands, I even packaged up a few loaves and sent them across state lines to a couple lucky family members. And, this year, I decided it was time to share it with you. It was the least I could do after promising you pumpkin baked goods and giving you beef stew instead. Do you forgive me?
Chocolate Chip-Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sour cream (full or low fat)
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup semi- or bitter-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a large (8-, 9- or 10-inch) loaf pan with spray.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.