High Altitude Baking: Pumpkin bread and pumpkin butter
High Country Baking
High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
My favorite classic pumpkin bread is perfect for fall. Why a classic? Because of its stand-alone sweet pumpkin taste, with no competing flavors.
And, I favor it for its lovely richness and unusually moist crumb, provided by an undetected splash of brandy. (I was surprised by this secret ingredient, but it proves to be a wonderful addition.)
The bread is a welcome guest at a Halloween party, Thanksgiving dinner or served with a bowl of soup or cheeses on an appetizer platter. Bake it in individual loaf pans and give it to friends and neighbors throughout the holiday season.
The pumpkin butter is a delightful companion for the bread — easy and fun to make and another fitting gift during the fall season. Topping toast, added to plain yogurt or used as a sandwich spread, it’s delicious.
Baking tip: Don’t be tempted to bake the bread in a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan. At high altitudes, doing so often results in a dense, heavy texture. I strongly recommend using the smaller pans listed below.
Adjusted for elevations of 8,000 feet and above
Make in four 3-inch-by-5-inch or two 7½-inch-by-3½-inch shiny metal loaf pans.
Make in a medium saucepan, preferably non-stick
2 cups all-purpose flour, spoon and level
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup canola oil
1/3 cup brandy
7 ½ ounces pumpkin puree (half a can)
Generous ¼ cup chopped toasted pecans, optional
15 ounces pumpkin puree
2/3 packed cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the baking pans, long side to long side, with non-stick or regular aluminum foil, letting it extend several inches beyond the sides to use as handles when removing the bread. Generously grease any exposed parts of the pan and the regular foil with a vegetable oil-flour baking spray.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine well and aerate. Set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars until mixed and smooth. To the egg mixture, add the oil, brandy, and pumpkin and whisk again to blend. Stir in the flour mixture and the chopped nuts and stir/whisk to form a batter.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, filling them between half and two-thirds of the way to the top, leaving at least 1¼ inches of the pans exposed. Bake until the tops are deeply golden, the sides just start to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Start checking at 35 minutes for 3×5 pans and 40 minutes for the larger ones.
4. Remove the pans to a rack, cool about 10 minutes, and then use the foil handles to remove the loaves. Let them cool completely before storing, wrapped airtight, for three days in the refrigerator, or freeze for a month. These are best a day after baking, when flavors have melded. Serve at room temperature.
5. To make the pumpkin butter: Put the pumpkin puree, 1⁄3 cup sugar, the lemon juice, spice, and a salt in a saucepan, stir to blend and then place over medium-low heat on a stove. Stir constantly as it simmers and thickens. If necessary, add water, a little at a time, to thin. Remove from heat, taste, add more sugar and spice, as desired. Return to heat, stirring, until smooth and thick enough to spread. Cool completely, transfer to sterile containers, cover, store and refrigerate for up to three weeks.
This bread recipe is a variation of one published in “Home Baked Comfort,” by Kim Laidlaw. Vera Dawson teaches high-altitude baking classes and is the author of two high-altitude cookbooks, “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.