A warm (fresh out of the oven) welcome

by piecurious

Despite the fact that the me of my imagination is a graceful, not to mention stylish, hostess who organizes dazzling, yet intimate get-togethers, offering delectable hors d’oeuvres, light but satisfying meals, and to die for desserts, the truth is I rarely entertain guests in my home. I also tend to put on my pajamas the instant I walk in the door, and no, they aren’t even remotely stylish.

For whatever reason (although I might blame nature and nurture for this one, thanks Mom), I have become absurdly neurotic about the level of cleanliness required of my living quarters for playing hostess. I’ve even purchased a gimmicky, yet surprisingly effective, vacuum cleaner designed specifically for managing pet filth (it’s called the PowerGroom Pet and it’s pink and purple), yet the moment I catch a stray tuft of cat hair playing tumbleweed across the floor I become mortified over the prospect of having people over.

Occasionally, however, the desire to see and talk to family or friends for longer than it takes to drink an espresso at a café compels me to set my nerves aside and welcome them into my home. And what better way to draw their attention away from cat hair tumbleweeds than with freshly baked goods?

Curried Pumpkin Loaf

Last weekend my Mother was to come for a long overdo visit.  And although she isn’t a fanatic about baked goods the same way I am, preferring salty and crunchy to sweet and chewy, I instinctively began to plan my visitor-welcoming recipe. A recent culinary mistake of hers provided the inspiration behind my choosing to make these mildly sweet and spicy curried pumpkin loaves.

My Mother is a simple eater.  She can live on minimal salads for months without a complaint.  But recently she decided she’d be a little more adventurous in the kitchen.  Having listened to me rave about curried pumpkin soup, she determinedly headed to the grocery store and picked up a can of puréed pumpkin with the intention of making her own.  Except she didn’t find pure pumpkin purée.  She found pumpkin pie filling.  “Is it supposed to be this sweet?” she later asked.

My mother made curried pumpkin pie soup.

And she liked it.

A warm welcome, indeed.

These curried pumpkin pie loaves are not made with pumpkin pie filling, but freshly baked and puréed carnival squash.  I find carnival squash delightfully sweet and therefore ideal for baking, although any kind of winter squash would work well too.  You might have noticed that I have yet to feature a recipe since the relaunch of piecurious.  There are two reasons for this.  First, I want piecurious to be as much about the narrative—the stories, thoughts, dreams—that inspire or are inspired by baking, both in terms of the process, as well as the product.  Second, I want to offer recipes that are personal and tested.  Not adaptations, and not haphazard kitchen experiments.

I tested three different versions of this recipe so I could be confident the ingredient combination was complementary and pleasant, and the method appropriate.  The first two versions used coconut oil and honey.  In the first, melted coconut oil was used and the ingredients combined directly.  The second used solid coconut oil creamed together with an increased amount of honey, pumpkin purée and curry powder after the first proved too dense and not spicy enough for my tastes.  And while I really wanted the coconut oil and honey combination to be the winner, the third version using butter creamed with organic brown sugar produced the nicest combination both in terms of flavour and texture.  So twelve curried pumpkin mini loaves later (with many thanks to my taste testers!), I give you the first recipe on piecurious, inspired by my Mother’s good intentions and my own curried pumpkin soup.

Curried Pumpkin Loaf
(makes one two pound loaf or four mini half-pound loaves)

4 oz (1/2 cup) butter, softened
5 oz (2/3 cup, packed) brown sugar
4 oz (2 large) eggs
12.5 oz (1 ¼ cup) freshly roasted pumpkin purée*

5 oz (1 cup) whole wheat flour
2 oz (1/2 cup) all purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp curry powder

2 oz (1/2 cup) sunflower and pumpkin seeds, toasted (plus more for garnish)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Place 2 oz (1/2 cup) mixture of sunflower and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until slightly brown and fragrant.  Meanwhile, beat together the soft butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs and then pumpkin purée until fully combined.  In another bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, preferably mixing by hand to avoid over-mixing.  Fold in toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds into the batter.  Portion into one loaf pan or four mini loaf pans.  Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with additional toasted seeds.  Bake for 45 minutes if making one large loaf and 30 minutes for four small loaves.  Serve to your visitors and ignore the cat hair tumbleweeds.

* To roast the pumpkin, preheat your oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with tinfoil and oil lightly.  After washing and fully drying the pumpkin, slice in half.  Leaving the seeds in, brush the cut sides lightly with oil or butter and place cut-side down on the baking sheet.  Roast for approximately 45 minutes, or until soft.  The seeds will scoop out easily after roasting.  Scoop the remaining flesh into a food processor and purée until smooth.  You could also use store-bought pumpkin purée, but be aware it is likely to have less water and therefore you may need to add some liquid to the batter if it seems too thick.