Back in the saddle!
I’m sorry it’s been such a long, long time. This semester was a whirlwind of teaching, research, writing, experiments and lots of data analysis; although most of that is now done and the manuscript has gone back to the journal for publication (woohoo!), I’m still scrambling to catch up with other requirements for graduate school. For example, my first thesis committee meeting (gulp). Another would be the requirement-that-must-not-be-named (gulp gulp).
So that’s the past four months of my life summarized in a few sentences – exciting stuff if you’re a science geek like me (although I am pretty envious of those who are taking intensive baking courses at SFBI!) but nothing about bread. Where is the bread? I’ve been baking erratically and now the photos are stockpiling in my folder, begging to be posted. Hopefully I’ll be able to resume a more regular frequency of posting shortly because I’m really excited to share these latest baking adventures with you.
This is a ginger pumpkin braid that spawned from a lonely can of solid pack pumpkin in my cupboard. It’s a hearty, pumpkiny loaf spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger, and is a festive addition to any dinner table. Or dessert table, for that matter. In fact, I made a variation of this for Netter’s birthday: I added cream cheese filling from the Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid and topped that with thinly sliced apples that had been lightly cooked. The spices, pumpkin, cream cheese and apple were a fantastic combination. (Happy birthday, Netter!)
Ginger Pumpkin Braid
Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Ginger Pumpkin Braid based on what I had on hand.
Makes two braids.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
– 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger*
– 1 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tbsp instant yeast
– 1 3/4 cups pumpkin: if you’re using canned pumpkin, buy the solid pack pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.
– 2 eggs
– 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
– pearl sugar, for topping
*The original recipe calls for diced candied ginger and raisins. Add those in too if you like!
- Mixing: in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, spices, sugar, ginger, salt and yeast, mixing until everything is well-distributed. In a separate bowl, stir together the pumpkin, eggs and softened butter until well-combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead (by hand or by mixer) for 2-3 minutes, cover and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes, and then continue kneading until smooth. Add flour sparingly to adjust the hydration (wetness), but know that the dough will be slightly on the sticky side. If you’re using raisins, add them in at this point and continue kneading just until they’re incorporated.
- Bulk fermentation: transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until approximately doubled in bulk, around 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Shaping: For the braid, divide the dough in half and then divide each half into three pieces. Roll each piece into a ~10-inch long rope. Use three pieces to make one braid. For the cream cheese and apple variation, follow the steps shown here. Place shaped loaves on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap.
- Final proof: about 1 hour, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.
- Baking: If desired, brush loaves lightly with water and top with pearl sugar. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, until lightly browned. Remove the braids from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack.
If you’ve got any leftover, how about some French toast?
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