Pumpkin Quick Bread

Like many young people who swallowed their fairy tales whole, it took me a long time to come to terms with the pumpkin as something to eat. It was a place for Jack Sprat to keep his wife. It was, if you believed Cinderella, an effective substitute for a cab so long as you didn’t stay out too late (a bit like the Brooklyn-bound F train). And its hollow grin lit our steps, like everybody elses’s, once a year, inviting the Headless Horseman to reclaim his cranial property.

The pumpkin is a storybook creature, a thing of tall-tale size and magical properties. But in the stories, does anyone eat the pumpkin? Never! People eat rampion from the witch’s garden. They eat pomegranate seeds and get stuck in the underworld for half the year. They make soup out of stones. But who eats a pumpkin?

Our family didn’t. Every year we bought the one pumpkin, for Halloween, but it was every bit as likely to turn into a coach-and-four as materialize on the dinner table.

Very often, kids find the idea of eating pumpkin grotesque. The problem isn’t the taste so much as the texture. It’s pretty much the same problem they have with zucchini and eggplant and okra—the squishiness, the stringiness, the lingering film in the mouth. And no amount of magical thinking will convince them otherwise.

If you want to make children eat pumpkin, you have to wave your wand and conjure away all its texture failings. If you can make the pumpkin more like a bread and less like a vegetable, you’ll be in business. Even friendlier to kids is the pumpkin muffin, especially with a scattering of pumpkin seeds on top. Either is a cakewalk to throw together, especially if you happen to have some pumpkin purée around.

How do I know pumpkin bread is that good? During the fall when I was pregnant with my daughter, Zoe, I happened to walk through a food court where pumpkin bread was being sold. I gorged myself shamelessly, eventually transforming the bread (and various other snacks) into nine plump pounds of baby girl. “Hello there, Pumpkin Seed,” my husband whispered on the day she was born, cradling her chubby swaddled self in his arms. When she looked up at us, her face was perfectly round, and that’s the way it stayed until she was about three. Pumpkin bread has staying power.

Today Zoe is a sturdy preschooler, with cute-as-a-button pigtails and a smile more mischievous than a jack-o-lantern’s. She adores pumpkins to look at, to decorate, and, yes, to eat. Her favorite story is Cinderella. Her favorite movie, Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s musical version. Her favorite CD, its soundtrack, which she sings to herself in a heart-piercing jumble (“Impossible! For a plain yellow pumpkin a prince to join in marriage…Impossible! For a plain country bumpkin to become a golden carriage…”)

I doubt the pumpkin bread was to blame. But who knows? After all, truth is stranger than fiction.–T. Susan Chang

LC Hey, About That Leftover Canned Pumpkin Purée... Note

We like this subtly flavored, not overly sweet, pumpkin quick bread. A lot. So much so that we’re not even annoyed that it calls for precisely nine ounces of canned pumpkin rather than the entire 14 ounces typically contained in a can. Still, we gotta wonder, what else are you going to do with those extra five ounces? Actually, lots of things. Consider stirring them into risotto, as our recipe tester Sandy “I Can’t Stand to Waste Food” Hill thought to do. Or mash them with some roasted sweet potatoes and butter. Blitz ‘em with banana, milk, and honey and slurp it down. Swirl ‘em into slightly thawed vanilla ice cream. Or moms, sneak the pumpkin into some mac-n-cheese  or meatballs. We know you have some inspired solutions of your own, so let us know how you put that pumpkin to use…

Pumpkin Quick Bread Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 2 H
  • Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 9 ounces pumpkin puree, either canned or homemade (see note that follows the recipe for how to make your own)
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • 1. To make the pumpkin quick bread, preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
  • 2. Toast the walnuts in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet until fragrant and very lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board to cool. Chop and set aside.
  • 3. Meanwhile, measure out the oil, dip a basting brush or your fingertips into the measuring cup, and oil a standard size loaf pan (8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 3/4).
  • 4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown sugar and oil on low speed. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the buttermilk, pumpkin, and extract, if using. Continue to mix on low speed while you sift together the remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly and carefully add the dry ingredients to the bowl and continue to mix, still on low speed, scraping down the sides just once. Mix just until combined.
  • 5. Stop the mixer and gently fold in the chopped walnuts. Scrape the batter into the oiled pan and bake until you can resist the aroma no longer and a tester inserted in the center of the quick bread comes out clean, 65 to 70 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the quick bread onto a wire rack and cool for another 20 minutes before serving.

Homemade Pumpkin Purée Note

  • There’s nothing wrong with canned pumpkin purée, other than that it lacks a bit of poetry. But it’s easy to make pumpkin purée yourself. You just cut a little sugar pumpkin in half and bake it in a 300°F (149°C) oven until it submits. Spoon it right out of its softened shell, or, if you’re a stickler for smoothness, throw it in the food processor. The whole thing takes maybe an hour, and it makes your house smell totally mythic.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Sandy Hill

Nov 23, 2011

What delicious aromas came from the kitchen while baking this Pumpkin Bread! The house smelled like fall. The loaf wasn’t really sweet, but it was wonderful with cream cheese and a cup of hot tea. It rose beautifully and made a nice soft top. This was a perfect quick bread for a bake sale or for storing in the freezer for gift giving at Christmas. The only thing that always bothers me is what does someone do with that leftover six ounces of canned pumpkin puree? I’ll keep this handy for all the pumpkin lovers in my family!

Testers Choice
Pat Francis

Nov 23, 2011

This bread is delicious. It tastes like autumn. Warm from the oven, it made a perfect accompaniment to a seasonal menu of honey-and-spice pork chops, braised cabbage and apples, and greens with bacon. At first I thought there were too many walnuts, but they gave the loaf a good texture and made it more interesting. I did use the optional orange extract, and I would suggest using it, if possible. This only took 60 minutes to be completely done.

Testers Choice
Caroline Chang

Nov 23, 2011

This recipes turns out some seriously yummy seasonal pumpkin bread. Easy to make, easy cleanup, and most ingredients are pantry staples. I omitted the orange extract and served with a schmear of cream cheese.

Testers Choice
Cynthia D.

Nov 23, 2011

So delicious — I wouldn’t change anything about the structure and ingredients of this pumpkin bread recipe. I’m going to make this recipe whenever I want to have pumpkin bread. I didn’t use the optional orange extract, and there was still plenty of flavor from the pumpkin and toasted walnuts. The loaf remains moist, even a few days after baking. I appreciated the relatively small amount of oil used for such a moist and flavorful bread. The loaf was soft, but still held up well. We were able to pack slices in small bags as snacks, with good results. One small note: the common size for canned pumpkin in grocery stores is not nine ounces. I believe it’s around 13 to 15 ounces. Since the recipe calls for nine, it required weighing the pumpkin or eyeballing the measurement.

Testers Choice
Tracey G.

Nov 23, 2011

My kids are addicted to the pumpkin muffins at the grocery store. We get them as an occasional treat, but sometimes the slick of grease the muffins leave on the bag make me queasy. I liked the addition of walnuts in this quick bread, because they seem to add a little more health and heft. The pumpkin bread itself is light and airy — not like the wet sponge texture you sometimes get in quick breads. As a bonus, I liked the gentle teaching tone of the recipe. Store-bought pumpkin breads, be gone!

Testers Choice
Lori Widmeyer

Nov 23, 2011

This pumpkin bread was so quick and easy to put together, by the time my oven heated and the nuts were toasted I was ready to chop and add them to the batter. In error, I took the bread out of the oven at close to 70 minutes. I had inserted my tester and it came out clean, but I should have tested in more than one spot because I noticed it was still undercooked in one area.

Before I could get it back in the oven, a nice crispy edge somehow fell in my mouth, or, as I told my husband who caught me, I was really just testing. It was very hard to let the loaf stay in the oven for a few more minutes after that first taste. The top and edges got that perfect crusty crunch to complement the moist bread, and the toasted walnuts were the ideal texture companion to make this so much more than your average pumpkin bread. I make a chocolate chip pumpkin bread and thought the kids would prefer that, but hands down, this is the new favorite.

Testers Choice
Joan Osborne

Nov 23, 2011

I loved this one, as did all my tasters. I highly recommend using the optional orange extract, as it lends a wonderful flavor to this bread. I used walnut pieces, which saved me some chopping. This is a breeze to put together, and I used my daughter’s stand mixer. It does smell heavenly while baking. This makes a great take-to-work snack and is delicious with a tall glass of cold milk or a hot cup of coffee. I know I’ll be making this one again and again.

Testers Choice
Susan Bingaman

Nov 23, 2011

Need a hostess gift or having the girls over for tea? This pumpkin bread is perfect. Chances are you’ve got everything already on hand, so you really have no excuse. I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts, and I think using a few hazelnuts would be delicious too. If you’ve got it, please use the orange extract. Just a little bit of citrus gives a little lift. One word of caution. Be careful when tipping the loaf out of the pan. This pumpkin bread is very tender, and it might crack, like it did for me.

Testers Choice
Anne D.

Nov 23, 2011

This is exactly what I look for in a treat this time of year before the December cookie insanity sets in. It was simple to prepare, moist, fragrant with cinnamon, and studded with tasty toasted walnut pieces. I enjoyed the subtle tang from the buttermilk. I didn’t have orange extract on hand, but think a citrus kick would be delicious. The only thing I would change is to kick up the spices a notch — I like the addition of cloves and ginger to my pumpkiny baked goods, but it’s still delicious as is!

Testers Choice
Robert Castagna

Nov 23, 2011

The bread was moist and had a very good consistency. I would like to make it diabetic friendly, so I would take out the brown sugar and add 1/2 cup of agave nectar. Since agave is in liquid form, I would reduce the buttermilk to 1/4 cup and the vegetable oil to 1/3 cup. The cinnamon I would use would be Saigon, as it is more fragrant then regular cinnamon.

Testers Choice
Karen Depp

Nov 23, 2011

This is an easy, straightforward recipe, and the resulting Pumpkin Bread is a not-so-sweet, finely textured bread full of walnuts. In fact, in might be called pumpkin-flavored walnut bread! I am used to a much sweeter pumpkin bread, and this is a nice change. There is a very subtle pumpkin taste underlying the crunchy walnut/spice flavor. I can imagine this will be great toasted as a quick “pick-up” breakfast, or really delicious with a nice cup of tea after an afternoon out in the cold, rainy weather. All in all, a good recipe. There are a few things that might need clarification — for example, how long to toast the walnuts? I had mine in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, and they were just perfect.

Testers Choice
Jyoti R.

Nov 23, 2011

I mixed this up by hand. You don’t really need a stand mixer. Just have all your ingredients measured and ready to go. The batter comes together quickly. The buttermilk gives the bread a nice tang. The bread had a nice texture. I would make this again.


Comments
Comments
  1. Elizabeth says:

    What did I do with the excess fresh pumpkin purée leftover from making pies for Thanksgiving? Froze it! And in a clearing-out-the-freezer campaign, I thawed the goop and searched for a new recipe. I am so, so glad I chose this! Thank you not only for the recipe, but for the compendium of favorite things to do with pumpkin.

    This loaf is moist and not at all too sweet, even though I substituted golden raisins for a third of the walnuts and threw in a few minced cubes of crystalized ginger for good measure. Meyer lemon zest vs. extract. Creamed butter vs. poured oil.

    A tip and a question follow:
    *Keep toasted walnuts on hand since they are ten times better than raw ones for any purpose you choose. One of the most brilliant kitchen tricks I ever learned is from Deborah Madison’s book, VC4E, p. 41 where she advises you to plunge raw walnut pieces into a pot of boiling water, turn off the heat, then let them sit, soaking up the moisture for a minute before draining. Spread on baking sheet, pop them into an oven, preheated to 300 F, and check after 20 minutes when they should be done. You have time to do this while prepping everything else and it’s worth it. Sooo much better and not just because they’re immune to burning if you take them out when your timer goes off.

    *Why baking soda and not a combination of baking powder and soda? The latter is what every recipe I’ve used calls for when buttermilk’s involved.

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Elizabeth, so wonderful to hear of your success with this recipe and LOVE your tips. I sent your question out to our baking experts and the answer is pretty straightforward. The main leavening kick comes from the chemical interaction between the acidic buttermilk and the basic soda. Due to the amount of soda specified, there really isn’t a need for the baking powder. Hope this helps!

      Beth

  2. Cleo says:

    Lovely pumpkin bread and just what the doctor ordered to usher in fall. I liked very much the toasted walnuts, which have a better crunch, and the buttermilk for the very slight tang and added moisture it brings to the bread. Perfect for anytime.

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