Thursday, October 1, 2009

Don't Show Up With "Yer Hands Hangin"

Kudos to my friend Triona, who hails from Ireland, for that great line. It's brief, to the point and it's visual. We were chatting and touched on the topic of guests who arrive empty handed. Even some who showed up for a holiday dinner, without say, the cider, after they had asked what they could bring. Not every visit is an occasion, and not all require a "gift." But, a token is the norm for more than a 'dropping by.'

Even during an economic downturn, it doesn't take much money or effort to show a bit of thoughtfulness. Lately, I've been spending time with cooks, entrepreneurs and artists. What can you give an already creative person?! Wine's good, mostly. Flowers? Frame? Candle? Blah.

With all the rain this summer, my garden has provided me with instant (and welcome, from what I've been told) bouquets to bring over as a hostess gift. Rosemary, mint, sage, basil. Mmmm.

I'm staying with my sister this weekend and the last thing she needs is a chochke (I would never win a Yiddish spelling bee...I spell 'tchotchkes' like I say it) so I thought I'd usher in the season with home made pumpkin bread.

One for me. One for her. One freezer!

Each autumn I bring home a few "cheese pumpkins," from a farm out East. They are the flat, beige ones and they have smooth creamy flesh that's so wonderful for breads and pies. (The big orange ones have stringy flesh--use them for Halloween decorating. Smaller, smooth orange ones called Sugar Pumpkins are ok for baking, but I prefer cheese pumpkins.)

A Cheese Pumpkin

I halve, seed and bake the pumpkins cut side down for 45-60 mins at 375 degrees F, scoop the flesh and run it through a ricer or just press the water out....then save the cooked pumpkin in 1 cup containers in the freezer.

It's October 1st and I have not been pumpkin picking yet but I wanna bake. Sandy shared a recipe (via last autumn for pumpkin bread that uses canned pumpkin. *Gasp! Canned Pumpkin?* I have to say, I got over my homemade self on this one. Canned pumpkin (puree, NOT pie filling) is a very good substitute in a pinch. This batter takes less than15 mins to mix up, and less than an hour to bake. Bread is almost a misnomer, it's a moist and dreamy cake in a loaf!

Trust me. Make this. You'd spend at least an hour hunting around for a hostess gift!

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
Makes 3 loaves

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt (table salt---it measures more true for baking than lighter, flakier kosher salt)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg (I grind whole nutmeg with a microplane----sooo fragrant!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Grease and flour 3 loaf pans (7" x 3" x 2")
3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.
5. With the mixer on low, stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just blended. Do not overmix!
6. Pour into the prepared loaf pans.
7. Bake for about 50 minutes. The loaves are done when a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Dale's serving suggestions:
This pumpkin bread is dee-lish on it's own, but feel free to gild...
For breakfast: toast the slices or not, and spread with cream cheese or a blop of vanilla yogurt
For dessert: top a slice with a dollop of pumpkin gelato, pumpkin, ginger or good ole vanilla ice cream

For a gift: wrap in parchment and tie with raffia, or in foil with a ribbon and some mint from the garden...or get fancy with cellophane. I don't think this prezzie will last very long or get re-gifted!


  1. Yum-yummm!!! This pumpkin bread is scrumptious...the purist that I am prefers a "perfectly naked" (no ice cream, no cream cheese, nada) big fat slice of this bread with a steaming cup of black coffee. What more can a gal want on a wintry New England morn'?!? Kudos, Dale-eo!

  2. And it tastes fabulous! I know, because I received a loaf from Dale. Yum-o.