Tuesday, October 10

My most-requested recipe: Best Pumpkin Bread Ever

We all have at least one prize-winning recipe, don't we? One that we make over and over, always to rave reviews. One that people always ask us for.

No doubt about it: my most-requested recipe is for pumpkin bread.

Best Pumpkin Bread

I know there are lots of recipes for pumpkin bread. You may already have one (or several) in your recipe files. And of course a quick internet search will yield many more. But I'm telling you, this one is special.  

When I got married in 1985, one of my favorite gifts was a wooden recipe box from my Aunt Laura. Inside the box were several recipes she had painstakingly copied by hand, and this pumpkin bread was one of those. Unbeknownst to her, by the time she gave me my own copy of this recipe, I'd already baked it several times in my mother's kitchen! 

It's easy to be impressed by recipes from famous chefs or magazines, and I do admire most of those recipes. But I'd be happy to have this bread judged against any of those. It hasn't necessarily been verified by a professional test kitchen, but I've made it hundreds of times over the years and I've never had it fail. And over the years I've eaten pumpkin bread made by lots of different home cooks as well as many different professional bakeries.  Cross my heart: this is the best pumpkin bread I've ever tasted.
Pumpkin Bread


3 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 Tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons)* salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola oil)
4 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin purée (I use Libby's solid pack pumpkin, 15 oz. can)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional: 2-3 cups chopped nuts (I use walnuts or pecans)

**Note: If you like to bake, do yourself a huge favor and spend a few dollars to order these measuring spoons. The set includes 6 spoons: 1/8 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 Tablespoon, and 1 Tablespoon. Having all six of these makes measuring so much easier! These wash beautifully in the dishwasher and last for years.**


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you're including nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and roast for about five minutes. This will make them a much tastier addition to your bread. Coarsely chop toasted nuts.

Stir all dry ingredients together in mixer bowl. Add all liquid ingredients. Mix well. Stir in chopped nuts if desired. 

Note: I often make two medium-sized loaves with nuts and two without nuts. To do that, simply mix up all ingredients except nuts. Fill two prepared pans with nut-free batter. Then stir chopped nuts into remaining batter and fill two additional pans.

Batter will be very thick, and to be honest it's not very pretty. Don't worry.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. I use four inexpensive oblong pans, each about 3 1/2 inches x 7 1/2 inches. This recipe is perfect for four loaves of this size, six "mini" loaves, two or three large loaves, or lots of muffins. (Please note: you don't need fancy heavy-duty pans for this recipe. I've made it a number of times in cheap disposable pans.) Grease and flour the pans if you like. I just spray mine with nonstick cooking spray.

Here's a trick: If you have a kitchen food scale, weigh each pan as you're distributing your batter. Your loaves will play nicely together in the oven if they're all about the same size. Don't stress over this; just make each pan weigh about the same as the others.

Depending on the size of your loaves, bake 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. This is the most important thing: DO NOT OVERBAKE. For these medium-sized loaves, I usually time this bread for 45 minutes and start testing at that point. Even if you have to sacrifice many toothpicks and test your bread every couple of minutes, that's better than overbaking. If it's not done, the toothpick will be goopy. If it's done, the toothpick will be completely clean or perhaps have a couple of crumbs on it, but no goopiness. Remove the bread from the oven just as soon as a toothpick comes out clean.

Q: Why is testing the bread so important?
A: Because of residual heat, the bread actually continues to bake just a little after you remove it from the oven. So if you leave baked goods in the oven too long, they'll OVERbake after you remove them from the oven.  Believe me: it's worth the effort to watch the bread and remove it from the oven as soon as a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Here's how your loaves will look fresh from the oven:

Cool in pans for five to ten minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

See how neatly the loaves come out of the pan when you just spray the pans with nonstick cooking spray? No sticking and no flour residue. I bake a lot, but I never grease and flour pans any more.

When completely cool, wrap individual loaves in foil. If you don't need all loaves right away, they freeze beautifully. I like to keep a couple of these in the freezer. A loaf makes a great gift for a neighbor, a teacher, a new mom--just about anyone. One of my favorite hostess gifts for autumn is to pair a loaf with a package of pretty beverage napkins.

One more thing about this amazing bread. If you like, you can make this bread do double-duty as a yummy dessert simply by adding a simple cream cheese frosting.  Here's a simple recipe:

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz. cream cheese

Mix all ingredients together. Add roasted and chopped nuts if you like. Spread on bread or cake (or just eat with a spoon--it's that good!).  Store in refrigerator.

Or you can make a simple cream cheese glaze which is also really tasty: click here to read about that.

If you've got a pumpkin spice craving, this recipe will hit the spot. I promise!

The best pumpkin bread

What's your most-requested recipe?

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  1. I need to make this! I am in the mood for something pumpkin. The third line down on the recipe is missing an ingredient. It has the measurement, just not the ingredient.

  2. Sounds so yummy. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Thank you so much, Paula, for pointing out the fact that an ingredient was missing from the list! It should say "1/2 Tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) salt." I've made the correction, but I might never have caught that mistake if it weren't for you!

  4. This pumpkin bread looks DELICIOUS! I pinned it and I'm following you on Twitter!

    - Natalie A

  5. Anxious to try ! Is it 1 Tbl baking soda? Thanks

  6. Leigh, yes it is 1 TABLESPOON baking soda. I know that seems like a lot, but this recipe makes a lot! Good luck with it!

  7. Richella, this sounds delicious! I will definitely be making soon.

    Sharing on Facebook and pinning. ;)

  8. Recipes from grandmoms and aunts are often the very best! Not only tasty but cherished for the memories. Thanks for sharing this one.

  9. This looks delicious. I can't wait to give it a try!

  10. I just made a pumpkin raisin walnut bread & it was a big hit, but I'm always on the lookout for a new one to try. I'll give this a try too. Pinned.


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