There are so many holidays that I adore. :) Christmas would probably be my favourite (gift-giving, gorgeous decorations, Santa Claus...what's not to like?) and then there's Chinese New Year since it's the time when everyone gets together (the perfect excuse to gorge on insanely tasty goodies and get a sore throat after). Then there're also ones like Halloween and Thanksgiving that really are Western holidays and aren't celebrated very much by locals in Singapore but having grown up on diet of Baby-Sitter Club and Sweet Valley books, I knew about how these occasions were celebrated and it always seemed like kids in the U.S. (particularly the fictional town of Stonybrook, Connecticut, where the Baby-Sitter series is based :P) had the most fun during those times. I mean, getting the chance to dress up and receive candy for free? What better holiday is there?? So as this time of year comes along and I start to indulge in Fall photos on tumblr, an immense yearning for chilly weather and autumn leaves starts building up inside. I know such a scene isn't quite possible in SG but I figured, might as well get in the spirit of things. So when my Ahpo (grandmama) gave me the cutest little pumpkin that she'd grown from her own backyard, it was only natural that we would use that to make a quintessentially Autumnal Pumpkin Bread. :D
Isn't this a pretty cute pumpkin? Not particularly big but it happened to yield JUST the right amount of pumpkin puree that we needed. And I love how it grew out of my Ahpo's little vegetable garden that has managed to grow quite a number of things over the past few years. When we were younger (I must've been say...5?) she grew the hugest winter-melon fruit that was so big it was even featured in the newspapers! That would've been the perfect opportunity to have a photo in the papers but at that time I was simply terrified of that stupid fat melon because it must've been almost my size. (At least that's what it seemed like to me at the time ><) So my older sis got featured instead. HUMMPH.
I remember her having a recipe for pumpkin bread but she wasn't able to locate it amidst the many dog eared recipe books in her room so we ended up using this recipe for Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread.
It's a fairly easy recipe to follow and the only few things to highlight about the recipe would be:
1. When making the pumpkin puree, first cut the pumpkin in half and de-seed it. You can roast it in the oven till it's soft enough to scrape out but my Ahpo had a much quicker method. Just pop the pumpkin parts into the microwave for about 8 to 10 minutes. After that, the pumpkin "flesh" will be visibly softer and more moist which will make it easy to use a spoon to simply scrap the pumpkin flesh off its skin.
2. To get an even puree, it's best to use a food processor and give it a whirr until the pumpkin paste appears even in texture. My Ahpo wanted to go old-school and simply smash it up with the back of a spoon and we tried that at first but once you mix in the other ingredients like the eggs and oil you'll find that it's extremely hard to get it well-mixed. So save yourself the trouble and just blend the pumpkin paste from the start.
Psst, this was the first time EVER that I made use of Cloves. Yeah kinda lame but I couldn't help but take a photo of it since... it's the first time I've seen it in real life. I realised after that though that they're not my favourite spice. A little too strong and ... herby? for my liking.
Ta-dah! It's really a fairly simple recipe to follow. Just mixing wet and dry ingredients together and pushing it into the oven and hoping for the best. I really was close to praying that this would work out because my dearest Ahpo has started getting a tad senile and when I asked her how to operate the oven in her kitchen, she ended up showing me the wrong buttons for the different functions! Which really panicked me for a minute there so after shoving it in and closing the oven door, I couldn't help but stare nervously for ages (knowing full well I couldn't stare it to rise but it's the same reason people press lift door buttons continuously - gives the mind something to do). Thankfully, after a loooong hour or so, it rose! And I think if I had left it in longer it would've gotten more crispy but I was in a rush to go off so I ended up taking it out when it was still a teeny bit moist on the insides.
I must say though, that I think my dad liked this bread a lot more than I did. :p For one thing, it ended up a little too moist for my liking (my bad for taking it out when it could've stayed in the oven longer) so it ended up crumbling over easily like a cake. Plus, the mix of spices make it more savoury than sweet and I was hoping for more of a sweet pumpkin type of bread. There's something about the taste/scent of cloves that borders on pungent to me. O_o But according to the reviews on All Recipes.com (by more than 5000 bakers!) it's supposed to be a great traditional Maine recipe. Good enough as a first try for me!
So to anyone who is celebrating Thanksgiving, what will you all be doing? :) I love the idea that it's an opportunity for everyone to get together, reflect and give thanks for things in life. We don't really need a holiday for that but it sure makes things tastier.