Pumpkin Bread

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Who can resist instructions like these in a cook book?

Slice a pompion, and boil it in fair water, till the water grows clammy, or somewhat thick; then strain it through a fine cloth, or sieve, and with this make your Bread, well kneading the dough; and it will not only increase the quantity of it, but make it keep moist and sweet a month longer than Bread wetted with fair water only.

The instructions were featured in The Family Magazine, London, 1741 and reproduced by Elizabeth David in English Bread and Yeast Cookery, this month’s feature cookbook from The Cook Book Guru .

I certainly can’t resist temptation!  I bought a pumpkin … and I peeled it…and I chopped it up… and I boiled it… and boiled it… and boiled it … I boiled the shit out of that pumpkin until it was mere mush and still the water was not “clammy, or somewhat thick”.  Maybe pumpkins were different in 1741.

I then strained my very well cooked pumpkin. Out flowed nice, clear, non-clammy, non- somewhat thick water.   I did my best, I really did.

In despair, I measured out how much fluid I wanted for the bread, added a couple of big spoonfuls of pumpkin pulp and whizzed it with a stick blender until it looked like thin pumpkin soup.  It was certainly “somewhat thick”.  I felt it, it felt slimy (which is basically what “clammy” means).  That would have do.

Ms David did not provide a specific recipe in which to use my pumpkin water so I went searching through her book.  I decided on her ‘basic loaf’.  I didn’t want to abuse any regional specialty with my pumpkin water.

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Ingredients

  • 450g bread flour
  • 120g whole meal bread flour
  • 10g dried yeast
  • 20g salt (I would use less if I ever made the bread again.  I think 10g is enough.)
  • 340g water at blood heat (which I replaced with my “clammy, somewhat thick” pumpkin water.  I ended up using a little over 500 mils.  I measured out 340 mils but the dough was very dry so I just kept adding it until I was happy.  I didn’t weigh the pumpkin water as the weight will vary depending on how thick it is.)

I followed the rest of Ms David’s directions to a “T”.  I doubt it was necessary but, as I was testing a recipe from the feature cookbook, I decided to follow the instructions faithfully.  Here they are:

  1. Put the flour and salt in a bowl, mix well.  Cover the bowl with a heat resistant plate and put in a very low oven for about 5 minutes to warm the flour (weird I know, but I did it).
  2. Whilst the flour is warming put the yeast in a cup, pour enough tepid water over the yeast to just cover it.
  3. After 10 minutes, mix the yeast to a cream.
  4. Pour the creamed yeast into the centre of the flour, add some of the pumpkin water and stir it around with the yeast using a wooden spoon.
  5. Pour the rest of the pumpkin water in and mix with your hands.  Work it for several minutes until it comes away from the side of the bowl.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave until doubled in bulk – about two hours.
  7. Gather up the dough and slap it down hard on your bench several times.
  8. Sprinkle the bench with flour and stretch out the dough to a rectangle.  Fold the top third over to cover the middle third.  Pick up the bottom third and fold it over the middle third.  Take the right third and fold it over the middle third, take the left third and fold it over the middle third.  Do this three more times.
  9. Shape the dough and put it in a greased medium loaf tin.
  10. Cover with plastic wrap and leave until it is nearing the top of the tin – about one and half hours.  (The recipe said it would be 45 minutes but mine was slower than this).
  11. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  12. Bake the loaf in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  13. Reduce the oven to 200°C  and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  14. Take the loaf out of the tin and reduce the oven to 180°C.  Place the bread on its side and bake for a further 15 minutes.

The verdict:  My loaf is not going to last a month so I am not going to be able to advise whether the bread keeps  moist and sweet a month longer than Bread wetted with fair water only.

There is no suggestion of pumpkin in the taste of the bread, although the crumb does have a nice yellow colour.  The crust is soft and, as you can see from the photo, the  crumb is very uniform and tight.  Because of this, it would make a good sandwich bread. I’m guessing the crumb is so tight because of that vigorous second knead.

When you slice the bread you get virtually no crumbs, which I find interesting but for which I can offer no explanation.

My main criticism with the bread it that there is too much salt – you can actually taste it.  Elizabeth David does note: In my bread recipe there is a generous proportion of salt.  For some people it may be a little too much.  It certainly was for me.

Would I bother with the pumpkin water again?  I certainly would not bother boiling a pumpkin for the sole purpose of making bread.  But, if I happen to have cooked some pumpkin and I am making bread that day, I would use it.  Why not?  It would have plenty of nutrients in it.

The basic loaf is nothing special.  I am unlikely to make it again. There are plenty of other recipes I prefer.

23 thoughts on “Pumpkin Bread

  1. Well that recipe from 1741 was certainly helpful now wasn’t it? Your pumpkin boiling reminds me of one Thanksgiving dinner that I was going to make “from scratch” which including a pumpkin pie using a REAL pumpkin. I did the best I could boiling that pumpkin & draining it & draining it until I called my mother – the queen of pumpkin pies – to ask her what I was supposed to do with “all this runny mush”. She said “toss it out & go buy a can of pumpkin filling – that’s been my secret for 50 years. I do love pumpkin bread & muffins a lot though!

  2. fascinating, I have tried many pumpkin recipes but never one where the water is used so specifically. I’m wondering about the type of pumpkin you used, and it’s water content – some are soft, some are grainy/stringy and others just plain dense/firm.

  3. Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
    It seems appropriate to share this amusing tale of pumpkin bread on a fabulous Friday. Our experiences of Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery is highlighting it’s age, how our tastes have evolved and the methods we now use in our cooking have changed with some entertaining results. Make sure you give yourself a chuckle and check out Glenda’s post from Passion Fruit Garden.

    Enjoy

  4. I love this post. The description you give to the treatment that was required for the pumpkin is hilarious! I think I may have made the same loaf of bread, sans the pumpkin experience, as I too have found it incredibly salty (saying something for me as I like salty things. 🙂 I’ve got a bit of a flurry of posts to reblog at the moment, but I’ll re post this tomorrow for you. Thanks for the great contribution.

    • Hi Leah, like I said in another comment, I think home bread making has come a long way since this book was written. No one would make bread like ‘the basic loaf’ anymore. I think its main interest is for its historical comment and for regional specialities.

  5. Well done for perseverance. My brain struggles to unravel those old recipes. It just reinforces thats It’s not only food that’s continually evolving, but language too

    • Celia, old recipes entice me. I can’t help myself. Margarine? I hate it and have never used it. Condensed milk? I could be easily persuaded 🙂

  6. The bread does look very good. I know I had to re read some parts of the recipes more than once. It sometimes felt like the words were going around in circles. You did well though.

  7. Ah, those seductive 18th-century recipes! The language is what gets you. Interesting variation on pumpkin bread, though I prefer mine as a “quick bread” sweetened and leavened with baking powder. Interesting that there were no crumbs – hard to account for.

    • Hi Debi, as soon as I read the instructions I was hooked. The trouble is, how are you ever to know that it does keep the bread fresh unless you make a loaf and let it sit for one month.

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