Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf

Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf | A Sweet Spoonfu

It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn’t been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other — ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that’s one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn’t it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner.

One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can’t pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn’t stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I’d ever tried — the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I’m so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich’s new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!

 

Alice Medrich's Flavor Flours | A Sweet Spoonful

If you’re familiar with Alice Medrich’s previous books, you know that she’s truly a dessert genius with meticulously-tested recipes that span from the very classic to the innovative. This book takes a different approach in that each recipe features what she calls “flavor flours,” wheat-free flours that contribute different rich flavors (as well as colors) to your favorite baked goods. There are flours I’ve worked with often like buckwheat (a favorite of mine on this site) or oat flour, and then there are those that are new to me like white rice or chestnut flour. I remember first reading Kim Boyce’s book, Good to the Grain, and feeling this sense of excitement as a new approach to baking and a whole range of ingredients opened up to me, and I feel similarly with Alice’s insistence that flavor should rule and that whole grain baking doesn’t need to be fussy or complex; most of these recipes are incredibly simple.

Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf | A Sweet Spoonful

Choosing flours for their flavor is a new concept to many because flour is often seen as the agent that helps our bread to rise or our cookies to come together. Much like sugar is often just seen as a generic canvas to sweeten, flour is viewed as a reliable leavener — that’s it. But different whole grain and nut flours boast completely distinct flavors and these can be immensely exciting to experiment with. If we take this recipe in particular as an example: this bread features warm fall spices and darker flavors like pumpkin, so Alice opts to use buckwheat flour for its earthiness (she calls it an “almost woodsy note”). If you just swapped in all-purpose flour or a more mild whole grain flour here, the bread wouldn’t taste as complex; the flour itself is actually helping flavor this loaf. In addition to buckwheat flour, this loaf relies on white rice flour which I hadn’t worked with before and which I’ve fallen in love with. It has such a lightness to it, and a really mild flavor so it allows the more dominant flavors (here, pumpkin) of a recipe to really shine. It’s common for whole grain muffins and loaves to be a bit squatty — and in my experience, more so with gluten-free flours. But the crumb in this loaf is so light and delicate that I’d take squatty, tender and packed with flavor any day.

Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf | A Sweet Spoonful

I’ve long been playing with whole grain flours in our kitchen, but this past year I’ve been getting really excited about the way that different natural sugars help infuse flavor into baked goods in much the same way, so I decided to use muscovado sugar here for its dark, almost damp sweetness, and I folded in a handful of dark chocolate chips at the end for an extra treat. This bread lasted all of two days in our house and thankfully Sam just left with a generous hunk to take with friends on a quick overnight trip to one of the islands. It’s a good one to share — to spread the delight.

 

Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf (Gluten Free)

Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf (Gluten Free)

  • Yield: 6-8 servings
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 45 mins
  • Total time: 55 mins

Alice’s recipe is perfect as is, but I’ve been craving chocolate lately so I decided to fold in a few leftover dark chocolate chips we had in the cabinet, and I love the look of the top of this loaf sprinkled with colorful pepitas. It’s wonderful toasted with butter — morning, noon, or night.

Slightly adapted from: Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (1 stick/115g) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (190g) muscovado sugar (or any unrefined cane sugar)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (120g) white rice flour or 1 1/4 cups (120g) Thai white rice flour
1/3 cup (40g) buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (170g) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup (80g) dark chocolate chips, optional
1/4 cup (35g) pepitas/raw pumpkin seeds, to top

Instructions

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom and sides of the loaf pan with parchment paper.

Combine the butter, sugar, and eggs in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Alternatively, use a handheld mixer and beat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the rice and buckwheat flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pumpkin puree and beat on low speed until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, and sprinkle the top with pepitas.

Bake the loaf for 45 -50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan for at least 2 hours before unmolding and slicing. The cake keeps, wrapped airtight, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let come to room temperature (or toast!) to serve.

Note: To make muffins, line 12 regular muffin cups and prepare batter (See above). Bake at 375 F for about 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Comments

  1. Mary

    As a kid, I was fascinated by sfogiatelle after seeing a recipe in a Martha Stewart book. I bought a (very cheap) pasta roller just to make them. After the first test left me with a broken pasta roller and pretty unimpressive pastries, I abandoned them altogether. It wasn't until I made them in culinary school some ten years later with proper instruction (and homemade ricotta filling) that I understood how great they can be.

    I also have been obsessing over Flavor Flours. I haven't been so inspired by a book in a while. I work at a bakery, and I have been persuading my boss to order all sorts of flours for me to experiment with. I'm really excited to work with teff and chestnut flours especially.

  2. Kathryn

    I really need to get a copy of this book! I've loved everything I've read about it and this loaf sounds wonderful - the combination of those autumn spices with buckwheat flour is a particular favourite combination of mine at the moment.

  3. Marta

    I discovered sfogiatelle last year, on a trip to the amalfi coast. I remember reading about it in our Lonely Planet guide, and not being able to rest until I got my hands (and mouth!) on one. I first tried it in a small cafe in Naples — it was pouring outside but I had heaven in my mouth. Ever since then I have seen it in food markets and italian cafes in London, but it’s not quite the same :(

    Hope you can shake off that fall-in-seattle blue feeling and bake your way through it :)

  4. Kasey

    This is so. my. thing. So. I hear ya on the slump that comes after vacation -- send some of your rain and gloom our way, would ya? We need it? xxx

    1. megang

      Ohhhh I want to transport some of our rain your way. I really, really do (although today was actually sunny so I should probably keep quiet). xox

  5. Susan

    Flour Flavors is wonderful!! Have made several things and next up is the Butterscotch Pudding with Single Malt...Whoo Hoo

  6. Abby

    Is white rice flour the same as sweet rice flour? I love using it in baked goods (first introduced by Ashley @Edible Perspective who uses it in her baked donuts)!

    1. megang

      Abby: It's not the same! Sweet rice flour is more "glutinous" as its ground from what we call sticky rice (short grain white rice versus the long or medium grain that is used to make rice flour). Sweet rice flour will have more starch, and I almost bought it at the store instead because it was quite a bit cheaper, but I think it would actually make a big difference in a recipe calling for regular rice flour. For this recipe I used Bob's stone ground rice flour. Hope that helps!

  7. Charlotte @ Drop Dead Bread

    I think everyone gets a bit of a slump when the weather turns cold.
    This loaf, though, looks like just the right sort of thing to perk you back up again!

  8. thelittleloaf

    I've been hearing such wonderful things about this book on various blogs and this pumpkin loaf looks like no exception. Love your addition of chocolate chips - the only way to improve on perfection.

  9. Carole

    Embrace the gray, baby! It's possible to actually look forward to fall and winter coming on for many reasons......yummy pumpkin bread being one of them. I love the coziness of thick sweaters, corduroy pants and wool socks, a pot of soup on the stove, fire in the fireplace, eating by candlelight, watching our Charles Dickens movies one installment per night, etc. I love that expectations are are lower in winter: no perennials to deadhead, no garden to weed, no car to wash. Just stay inside and keep the house smelling like cinnamon and after a few more years you'll be A true North Westerner. You will love the sound of rain and howling wind will just make you hop up and bake something that only sounds good when the weather is bad.

  10. Mary

    Megan, it is pronounced "sfoo-ya-tell". Now you can say it like an Italian!

    1. megang

      Mary! THANK YOU!

  11. Nurith

    I just made an adaptation of this recipe and it came out great! I had two bananas that were way overripe so I made banana bread instead of pumpkin. I used half the amount of dark muscovado sugar and reduced the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. The other changes: used brown rice flour instead of white, added some walnuts and a splash of vanilla. The loaf was so tempting I didn't bother to cool it before trying it. Not even 20 minutes out of the oven and half the loaf is gone! Thanks for the recipe and inspiration! I've made a few of your baked goods and they're always a success. It's such a pleasure reading your blog.

  12. Kelly

    Your pumpkin loaf looks delicious. Thanks for the info on flours- I had no idea! Can't wait to try this!

  13. francesca

    Great minds! Just made a one-bowl pumpkin loaf, too :)

  14. Liesel

    I have all the ingredients on hand and would really like to make this. What size loaf pan did you use?

    1. megang

      Hi, Liesel! Oh, I just used a standard size 9" loaf pan. Enjoy!

  15. kristie {birch and wild}

    Your trip sounds lovely. I want to discover new pastries in Italy! But no, I am stuck in the gloomy, cold interior of British Columbia. I think I will make this pumpkin bread though, to keep me warm and make me feel cozy. It looks lovely.

  16. Caitlin @ teaspoon

    I'm excited to try this. Of the two non-regular flours I have, they happen to be these. And I also have a pumpkin waiting to be roasted and pureed. This sounds perfect for Thanksgiving morning.

    1. megang

      Awesome, Caitlin! I hope you enjoy! ~Megan

  17. JoAnn

    Megan, this is delicious! I have an allergy to wheat and so love trying new and different flour combinations. The flavor of the buckwheat really comes through in this and, you are right, the crumb is so very light. This is one of those recipes I will make again and again through the cold months in Northern California. I think I will need to also get Flavor Flours - it will be a great addition to my collection! Thank you so much for sharing!

  18. Zanna

    Hi Megan,

    I apologize, this post has absolutely nothing to do with food. I'm obsessed with the black and white top you're wearing in the about me section. So funky, so classy! Would you mind sharing where you got it?

    Ps. The Loaf looks delicious as well!

    1. megang

      Thanks, Zanna! It's from Madewell a few years ago.

  19. Jamie

    Somehow, I've come to own only miniature loaf pans and not a full-size loaf pan. Do you think this would work in miniature loaf pans?

    1. megang

      Sure thing, Jamie. You may just need to adjust the bake time (should bake up a little quicker). Enjoy!

  20. lizykat

    Thank you for this recipe. I was doing side by side comparison baking for pumpkin bread as I whittle down my copious recipes, I mean, how many recipes for pumpkin bread does one need? Hands DOWN this one wins. I happened to have both flours in the cupboard and the taste was just delicious!! Thanks again.

    1. megang

      Well I'm so glad the pumpkin bread won out; I do love this recipe so much (it may have a little something to do with the dark chocolate). ~Megan

  21. Adriana

    I baked this yesterday as muffins, they are very good, my daughter said they are addictive ?
    I used half butter half coconut oil and brown rice flour, 14 medium-small delicious muffins came out
    Thanks for sharing ?

    1. megang

      Thanks so much for sharing your swaps, Adriana. Your version sounds delicious and so glad that your daughter liked them! Have a great weekend.

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