Gordon may have gone out on a bit of a limb trying to make his pumpkin pie Jewish, but it turns out he was just looking for inspiration in the wrong community. Due to our own personal backgrounds, we have been a bit heavy on the Ashkenazi and Israeli food, so I decided to start looking at recipes from the Sephardi tradition. Low and behold, it turns out that pumpkin was one of the first New World plants brought back to Europe by Spanish explorers and is quite popular in Sephardi cuisine. Marc and I got into a discussion of pumpkin use in Sephardic Rosh Hashana meals, as the roundness of the pumpkin is symbolic of wishes for a well-rounded, full year. Marc was particularly fond of roasted pumpkin with couscous and a soup recipe he got from a good friend. In a moment of serendipity, that very evening, Meredith, the Video Producer at Chow.com, walked out of her office with half a raw pumpkin and said “Amiee will know what to do with this”. Indeed I did. (She also sent home some delicious, left-over roast capon and stuffing from the test kitchen). The next day I set about roasting and pureeing the pumpkin and pursuing Sephardic Holiday Cooking. There were several options, but as usual I was drawn toward the bread. While the settlers in the new world developed the moist quick-bread style pumpkin bread most of us grew up with, the Sephardim incorporated pumpkin into the traditional yeast bread and quite tastily into challah. This bread makes a beautiful addition to any Halloween or Thanksgiving celebration.
Recipe after the jump
The recipe in Sephardic Holiday Cooking yielded 2 loaves and 12 rolls, so I cut it in half. I also misread the and for an or and ended up with one giant loaf. I bumped up the spices, replaced the oil with shortening and added chocolate chips so it would hold additional appeal to my niece and nephew. The recipe also calls for ground cardamom which I found provided a really nice subtle aroma and I was able to get a small bag of it for only $2 at Village Market as opposed to the normal $10 jar.
Sephardic Pumpkin Bread
makes 1 giant or 2 normal size loaves
- 4 C. flour
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 C. warm water
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 C vegetable shortening
- 2 eggs
- 1 C. chocolate chips (optional)
- In your mixer bowl dissolve the yeast with a pinch of sugar in the warm water to activate.
- In a separate bowl cut the vegetable shortening into the flour then mix in the salt, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
- Once yeast is activated add to your mixing bowl the pumpkin puree, brown sugar and 1 egg and mix until combined. Add about half of your dry ingredients and the chocolate chips and mix. (This helps make sure the chips are spread throughout the dough)
- Switch to the dough hook and add the remainder of the dry ingredients and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should pull away from the bowl.
- Place ball of dough in a greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise about 1 hour or until double in size.
- Punch the dough down and form into one or two loaves and place on baking sheet. (I find a spiral shape to be fun for this recipe) Allow to rise 45 minutes or until double in size.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat the second egg and brush the top of the loaves with it. Bake loaves for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.