There are plenty of reasons why I hate winter – days that run out of sunshine by 4 pm, being cold ALL the time, heating bills, being stuck inside – I could go on and on. For all its downsides, though, winter has one redeeming quality – snow days! As an adult, waking up to find a ton of snow has fallen while I slept makes me excited the way discovering Santa had come overnight did when I was a kid. I can’t get enough of it. The shoveling does get a bit tiresome but it’s a small price to pay for the joy of a snow day, in my opinion.
You’ll understand, then, why yesterday was a fantastic day. A massive storm dumped about a foot and a half of snow on us; it was like hitting the snow jackpot! Even better, Shane got the day off of work because the roads were quite dangerous so we found ourselves with a mini weekend in the middle of the week. We had fun watching the snow fall when we woke up and later playing in it (after we’d done the hard work of shoveling, of course). In between, there were tv shows and movies to be watched, comforting meals to be eaten, photos to be taken and, to no one’s surprise, baking to be done. I had leftover pumpkin lingering in the fridge from last week’s oatmeal, so using that up was the top priority. I ruled out cookies, muffins, and pie before settling on a yeast bread.
This recipe originally comes from King Arthur Flour, though I stuck closely to Annie’s adaptation when I made it. The recipe makes two loaves and instead of leaving them both plain, I decided to add a cinnamon swirl inside one of the loaves, which I thought would work well with the pumpkin. The other change I made was a result of discovering I didn’t have enough bread flour for the recipe. I subbed all-purpose for about 2 1/2 cups of the 6 1/2 in the recipe, and still wound up with a wonderfully soft, just ever-so-slightly sweet bread. I preferred the loaf with the swirl (you can’t go wrong with more cinnamon and sugar) but they were both delicious. The bread toasts well and is a real treat topped with even more cinnamon sugar I suspect it’ll make great french toast too, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for another snow day soon which will be the perfect occasion to try it out.
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
2/3 cup warm milk (~100 F)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons canola (or vegetable) oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
6 1/2 cups bread flour (approximately)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Add the water and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly to combine. Add the milk, eggs, pumpkin, oil, brown sugar, salt, and spices and beat until the mixture is uniform, about 30 seconds. Add 4 cups of the flour to the mixer bowl, and beat until the flour is incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add enough of the remaining flour as is necessary to create a dough that is smooth and elastic. (I let my mixer do most of the work then kneaded by hand for the last few minutes – when you’ve finished, the dough should no longer be sticky). Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (On cold days, before I start making the dough I preheat my oven to 170 F then turn it off and let the dough rise in the warm oven.)
While the dough rises, make the filling by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Also, spray two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Press (or roll) each half into a rectangle about that is about 18 x 9 inches. Brush each half with the melted butter then sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Starting with a short side, roll each rectangle of dough tightly into a cylinder, pinching the seam closed when you get to the end. Place the loaves in the prepared loaf pans, seam side down. Press down gently so the dough touches all four sides of the pan. Cover each pan with a piece of plastic wrap (or a towel) and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
Toward the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a loaf reads 190 F. Immediately remove the loaves from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
Makes two loaves