How to Use Fresh Pumpkin in Your Baking Plus a Pumpkin Bread Recipe
By Dennis Weaver
It’s easy to open a can of pumpkin and use it in your favorite recipe but it’s nice to use fresh pumpkin in baking. It adds flavor, color, extra nutrients, and often more moisture than the canned pumpkin. Plus, there’s just something special about making your pumpkin baked goods entirely from scratch.
When buying pumpkins, choose the smaller sugar or pie pumpkins, not the larger ones used for jack-o-lanterns. The larger pumpkins are not as sweet and are often stringy. Choose full-sized, mature, deep-colored pumpkins. Leave the stems on the pumpkins; they will keep much longer.
How to Prepare Your Pumpkin for Baking
Cut a sugar or pie pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds. Place the halves in a baking pan, flesh side down with 3/4-inch of water in the pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350°F or until the flesh is tender.
In the interest in time, we often microwave slabs of pumpkin and have even steamed pumpkin rather than waiting for the pumpkin to bake in the oven. It works, but baking tends to dry the pumpkin, making for thicker puree. If you use microwave cooked pumpkin, be prepared for a thinner puree or cook it down on the stovetop.
Grated Pumpkin vs. Pumpkin Puree
There are two ways to use fresh pumpkin in your baking: grated or pureed. If you add grated pumpkin, you will have flecks of deep orange color and the bits of pumpkin tend to give a chewier texture. The other way is to add pumpkin purée. Here’s how to make pumpkin puree for your favorite recipe:
After baking or cooking the pumpkin, let it cool until you can handle it without burning yourself. Scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin and place it in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth.
Often, especially from smaller or immature pumpkins, the puree will not be thick enough—a spoon should stand upright in the puree. To thicken the pumpkin puree, place the puree in a saucepan and cook, stirring often until the puree becomes thicker.
Use it as you would canned pumpkin. Extra pumpkin puree freezes well.
Troubleshooting Thin Pumpkin Puree
In some recipes, it doesn’t matter whether the puree is thin. If you add a thin puree to a yeasted bread recipe, you’ll have to add a little more flour to compensate. That’s not a problem. If you are making pancakes, the thinner puree just means less water or milk to get the same consistency.
On the other hand, if you are making cookies or scones or muffins, balance matters. You can add more flour or less liquid and it may turn out okay, but you won’t know without trying.
In the following bread recipe, you may use a thinner pumpkin puree. Just be prepared to adjust the amount of flour that you use to accommodate different moisture contents of the pumpkin purée.
October Pumpkin Bread Recipe
Pumpkin makes a wonderful addition to bread, adding color, nutrition, and flavor. This is wonderful bread. If you like, you can substitute up to three cups of whole wheat flour for the white bread flour. We like golden raisins in this bread but you can use dark raisins or leave them out altogether.
This bread is not sweet like a dessert bread. You can add more sugar if you like. You can also add one cup of chopped walnuts.
Place half the bread flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand-type mixer. Add the warm water and beat with a dough hook until it is partially mixed. (The purpose of this mix is to hydrate the yeast.)
Add the rest of the flour, spices, pumpkin puree, salt, and butter. Knead with the dough hook at medium speed for four minutes. When the dough comes together, add the raisins and continue beating for the remainder of the four minutes or until the gluten is developed. You will likely need to adjust the moisture level either by adding flour or water.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn once, and cover. Set the bowl in a warm place and allow it to double in size.
Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Form two loaves, cover them, and let them rise until doubled and puffy.
Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until done. The internal temperature should be at 190 to 200°F. Remove the loaves from the pans and let the bread cool on a wire rack.
Baker’s Note: The pumpkin in this bread makes it very moist. Pumpkin has a very mild flavor and acts as a background for the spices and this has a mild bread combination of spices. Add more spices if you like.