Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Halloween Mantel and Amazingly Moist Pumpkin Bread


Fall is finally here, although looking around outside at the green grass and blooming tropical flowers, you'd hardly guess it was anywhere near October here in Florida. Even though it doesn't look much like fall outside, at least inside the house I can make it feel a little more like fall with some freshly baked pumpkin bread and a few Halloween decorations.

I am not all that into massive changes to my decor with each season, but I do change out some things. My living room mantel is the main area I focus on, since it is so easy to change out for the holidays.

I found these cute Halloween candle holders at a yard sale last spring. They were part of a huge plastic tub jam-packed with assorted Halloween and Easter themed decorations. I came late in the day, so the lady having the sale told me I could have everything for $5. The pumpkin platter my bread slices are on was also from the same tub of Halloween goodies.

This is another lovely scented candle I found at different yard sale for just 25 cents. It has dried apple slices embedded in the wax. The crystal candle pedestal is one I bought from a Partylite candle party years ago.

A cute snow globe I bought when my daughter was a baby. Instead of the usual white "snow," this globe has tiny black bats that fly up and swirl around when you shake it. It also has glowing eyes that light up and makes noises when motion is detected (and thankfully, has a very short range so it isn't going off every second).

My favorite thing to bake when fall arrives is this amazing pumpkin bread recipe. It is very, very moist and has a lovely golden amber color. When I once brought this to a work potluck, both loaves vanished so fast and I had several requests for the recipe. I have tried many different versions of pumpkin bread that I also love, but this is definitely one of my favorites. The secret to this recipe is the use of both lemon and Pumpkin Spice pudding mixes, which gives it a unique flavor and makes the texture extra soft and tender. Pumpkin Spice pudding mix is only available seasonally, so I try to hit the local stores early and buy up a bunch to last me the year. If you can't find any in your area, butterscotch pudding mix also works very well.

Pumpkin Spice Bread (as adapted from a recipe found in the Best of the Best cookbook series)
(makes 2 loaves)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 package instant Pumpkin Spice pudding mix (or butterscotch), (4 serving size)
1 package instant lemon pudding mix, (4 serving size)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil (or any flavorless cooking oil)
2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin, mashed without any seasonings (or use canned puree)
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract (really that much!)

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and flour two 9x5" loaf pans. Sift together first 8 ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, dry pudding mixes).

Beat eggs well in another bowl. Add oil, sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla to the eggs and mix well.

Combine wet mixture with flour mixture gently with a wooden spoon, pressing out any large lumps with your spoon, just until ingredients are moistened- do not overmix.

Pour evenly into the two prepared loaf pans and bake at 350 F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick tests clean when poked into the center. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool fully before slicing. If you cut into them before they cool, they will fall apart, so try to be patient, no matter how difficult it is!

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