Like most people, I purchase small pumpkins every October from local grocery stores or Farmer’s Markets. However, instead of carving them up and using them for Halloween decorations, I wait until the first of November to roast them in the oven for homemade pumpkin puree. Because of this tradition, I usually have enough puree to bake all of the pies I need for Thanksgiving and Christmas, with enough left over to experiment around with other pumpkin-inspired baked goods. Needless to say, I’ve tried several recipes: pumpkin cookies, muffins, cakes, and so on, and while everything I’ve tried has been tasty enough, my all-time favorite is a recipe I’ve adapted from Bon Appétit for miniature pumpkin loaves.
This bread is incredibly moist and rich with a good balance of flavor. And in the spirit of the fast-approaching holidays, these mini loaves give you the opportunity to surprise a few special people, be it co-workers, friends, or family members, with an unexpected gift to brighten their day.
3 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare six miniature loaf pans (5 3/4 x 3 1/4 x 2-inch) by brushing the bottoms and sides with butter. Drop a small amount of flour into the pans and shake to coat the flour evenly over the sides and the bottoms.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk to combine and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat together the pumpkin puree and the sugars in a separate bowl until combined. Beat in the oil gradually, and then add each egg, one at a time, until well incorporated.
Add 1/3rd of the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and beat slowly. Pour half of the buttermilk into the bowl and then another 1/3rd of the dry ingredients, alternating in this manner until all of the ingredients are combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared miniature loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for about an hour, or when a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven when done, and cool on a wire rack for one hour. Run a butter knife along the edges of the pans and invert so that the loaves come free. Set the loaves back on the wire rack until completely cool.
The loaves are best when given out the next day, but you can refrigerate or freeze them to extend their shelf life. Just make sure to take them back down to room temperature before packaging.
Once the loaves are cool, wrap them in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will keep the loaves moist and the oils from seeping through to the outer packaging. I chose to package my loaves with paper from old grocery sacks, but you could also use wrapping paper or butcher paper. To do this, apply the same techniques you would use for wrapping a gift. Make sure to use double-sided tape (or tape folded upon itself) to secure the packaging while staying hidden under the flaps, and then go over the packaging with twine for an added touch. Secure your MOL tag of choice onto the twine and tie off as you please.
Homemade baked goods always make for a well received gift because of the time and effort that you put into making them, and well-thought packaging can only help to make the presentation of your gift extra special for your recipients. I used the Xenith Scallop hang tags in the color spice for my pumpkin bread mini loaves, and I really love the way they look.