We had quite the weather weekend here in Memphis. Ice! Snow! Sleet! Stock up on milk and bread now! We were sent home from work around 11 am on Friday, so I found myself at home, with my husband (he teaches, so of course he had the day off), with no plans. So the weekend turned into a feast of sorts. We always plan our weekends around our meals, so with all of this time to ourselves, and neither one of us feeling up to doing responsible things (clean? why?), we mapped out our gastronomic weekend.
First, I made scones (I deviated and added apples and cinnamon, and a tad more salt = perfect). Then for Friday night dinner we had gourmet pizza at our local trattoria (man do I love our neighborhood). To continue the Italian theme, Saturday night we decided to immerse ourselves completely in Italy by making L's grandmother's "famous" spaghetti sauce, along with salad, fresh bread and olive oil, and followed by panna cotta by yours truly (another post for later, I promise!).
I also had grand plans to make tea cakes, as we received this when we got married and I still haven't had a chance to use it. But ultimately, pumpkin bread won out on Sunday afternoon. A little background: L's father got this recipe from his dear secretary of twenty-something years, and passed it on to us. I was fortunate to have met Ruth last summer, and she is sweet as can be. Can I say that one day, I hope to be a Ruth to someone else? The idea of someone else using my recipe and having it bring them happiness...gosh, what a great feeling.
(Yes, yes, this uses shortening. I know! Shortening scares me too, but don't try to sub butter here. The shortening just gives this recipe a softness, a real tender crumb that I don't think butter could without adding any butter flavor. But if you try it with butter, let me know your results!)
Ruth's Pumpkin Bread
yield: 2 9 x 5 loaves
1 cup shortening
2-1/2" cups sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two 9x5 loaf pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment.
2. Thoroughly combine shortening, sugar, and eggs in large bowl. Add pumpkin, mixing until smooth (there will still be lumps of shortening, but that's ok - as long as they are about pea-sized).
3. Sift together the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, mixing until just combined.
4. Fill the loaf pans equally, spreading the batter smooth on top. To eliminate any bubbles, hold each pan about 5 inches above your counter and then drop it flat. Repeat if necessary.
5. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine always takes the full 60 minutes, but start checking around the 50 minute mark just in case). Let cool on a baking rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans (use your parchment as a sling, and lift out loaves straight up and out of the pan - does that make sense?), and let cool on the rack completely.
This bread freezes and travels really well (I mail this to my in-laws, who live about 350 miles away, almost monthly, and have heard no complaints).