“No. I don’t want you. Get back in your closet. I don’t care if you used to be my favorite. I’m not ready for you!!” I heard myself wailing those words last week, like a toddler having a tantrum.
With a sigh, I said good-bye to the sun and braced myself for the 7 straight days of wind and rain as forecasted by my weather page. Autumn has always been my most cherished season of the year. But not this go around. Maybe it’s because our summer here in the Northwest didn’t really start until the beginning of August. Maybe it’s because due to the ages of my children, we can actually have fun on our summer vacations nowadays. Maybe it’s because I’m still hoping those little green peppers are going to grow bigger and turn red. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and it takes me longer to recover from the previous school year and hence, I wasn’t quite ready for this school year to start. And since I’m still not recovered from the previous school year, how am I possibly going to get through the impending holiday season? Whatever the problem, I was not ready to usher in my favorite season of the year with open arms.
But, autumn is here whether I’m ready for it or not. Funny how that works. So, I tried to drum up some seasonal spirit and put a sprinkling of fall decor around the house. A string of lights. I spent an afternoon raking the leaves off my front lawn. Breathing in that cool, crisp air. I turned on the heat and pulled out my favorite pink wool sweater to wear in the evenings. After school one day, to the surprise and delight of my children, I set down mugs of hot apple cider topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Saturday morning found me, huddled under umbrellas, with my mother and father. A fleece blanket draped over our laps. Hooting and hollering as my 11-year old and his football team fought their way into the playoffs. And so, you could say, I was going through the motions to embrace the season upon me. But it was after the football game, during a seemingly “non-moment”, that I found myself unable to resist autumns charms.
There, sprinkled on the deck of the parking lot, was a kaleidoscope of color. Leaves in all shades of crimson. And the shear beauty of those leaves laying there in the rain against the stark contrast of the pavement made me catch me breath.
Smiling, I hopped into the car and drove up through the fog toward home. Into the kitchen, I went. Bowls and mixers making all kinds of racket. Vince Guaraldi coming through loud and clear on my speakers. My sweetie passing through and casually tossing out the comment, “Do you ever stop producing?” And me, singularly focused on baking a loaf of pumpkin bread with chocolate chips. It was time to properly welcome in autumn.
So here I sit, after the frenzy of the holiday weekend and the baking extravaganza. Warm in my favorite wool sweater. A cup of tea and a plate of crumbs from the slice of pumpkin bread I had for breakfast next to me. A sick child upstairs. My voters pamphlet in front of me. All thoughts of going back to bed, long since silenced. Out the window, brilliant reds and yellows played out against a backdrop of creamy, white fog. And me thinking, “Okay, okay, I’m glad you’re here my favorite friend.”
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Pumpkin Bread, The Joy of Cooking
So, yes, as I mentioned above I had a bee in my bonnet about needing to make pumpkin bread over the weekend. I combed the internet high and low, pulled out cookbook after cookbook, searching for the perfect pumpkin bread recipe but every time I found one, the recipe would call for at least 3 CUPS of sugar, if not more. I just couldn’t, in my right mind, add 3 cups of sugar to a single loaf of bread. So, in a last ditch attempt, I pulled out a ladder and hauled down Irma’s masterpiece, The Joy of Cooking, from the highest point in my kitchen in a last ditch attempt to find a recipe. There it was on page 774. And only a bit more than 1 cup of sugar needed. In my effort to try to “healthify” (I just made that word up) my recipes, I did throw in some whole wheat pastry flour and since one of my guys is allergic to nuts, instead of the handful of walnuts I would have like to have used, I tossed in some chocolate chips to spice it up a bit. I found it to be incredibly delicious, all warm, straight from the oven, but left to sit a day or two, the flavors mellow and mingle giving it an even richer flavor.
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar plus 1/3 c packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c dark chocolate chips (or walnuts or raisins or all three.)
Bring out all of your ingredients so they can be warming to room temperature. Next, position a rack in the middle of your oven and then, preheat to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. (I used butter.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine your milk and vanilla. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat your butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add in your sugar and beat for 3-4 minutes. Next, beat in your eggs, one at a time. Add your pumpkin puree and beat on low speed just until blended.
Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Fold in your chocolate chips.
Pour into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let your loaf cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes before taking out of the pan and allowing to cool completely. Enjoy.
Yield: One loaf.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010