With Gratitude and Thanksgiving — What We Have Forgotten
“Lee apologized for the dinner like an old fool. He blamed the gas oven which didn’t heat like a good wood stove. He blamed the new breed of turkeys which lacked a something turkeys used to have. But he laughed with them when they told him he was acting like an old woman fishing for compliments.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Home cooking and the gender of who cooks these meals is buzzing in the media. It’s not a new discussion though. Ever since women started working full-time outside the home, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner has been a timely topic. There’s lots more too, budgeting, planning, shopping and clean-up. Even a bold essay about not cooking at all. I’ve wanted to comment on each of these blog posts, but my response is long and conflicted. I’ve had spurts of enthusiasm with cooking too. I still do.
I was made to help in the kitchen at an early age, while my three brothers were not. By age twelve, I was making dinner at least five nights a week. Resentment settled in early. My self-righteous indignation fueled more years of anger than I care to admit. But the thing is, the important thing is — I enjoy the process of cooking. I function best when I am using my mind and hands together in harmony. Cooking and baking are activities that nurture my creative soul. I like to feed my family well and know the ingredients in my food. I enjoy sharing what I’ve made with others. So I cook and bake and blog. I am fortunate that I have the time and resources to do so. To banish any seeds of resentment I will take a day off.
It is difficult to get dinner on the table after a long day at work, a commute, family stuff and just plain being worn out. Take-out is fine, pizza too. But there is something important we have forgotten. We are the chosen ones. We have food to cook, a stove and a refrigerator. We can drive to the store and there is food there we can buy and bring home to feed our families. And we complain and whine as if it is an entitlement. If you have ever lived with food insecurity you understand. If you have not, I hope you never do.
We made potato soup and huge pots of beans. Sunday was the only day of the week when we had a piece of chicken on our plates. Pork chops and roast beef were for special occasions. I had no knowledge of steaks or lamb chops. Yet there was always food. We made enough to share. Our friends and visitors were always asked to stay for dinner, most did. The food was good, wholesome and flavorful. It was a different way of cooking. Nothing was wasted, left overs were made into another meal. It was cooking to nourish and dinner was a place to gather at the end of a long day. In our lives of privilege this is what we have forgotten. This is the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving. To stop the frenzy of our modern world and remember to be thankful.
With gratitude I baked this bread to share with you. It is autumn and freshly baked bread with a bowl of homemade soup makes me happy. It’s warm and comforting, the way I like my kitchen. The Yeasted Pumpkin Bread loaded with Cranberries, Pecans and Browned Butter is a rich, moist loaf that has even better flavor the day after it is baked. Toasted the next morning it is a revelation in fall flavors. We took a drive way up the coast to Half Moon Bay and stopped at Pescadero to visit Harley’s Goat Farm. Topping the bread with Harley’s Lavender Goat Cheese and honey from the farm is sublime. If the loaf lasts until the weekend, I’m considering French Toast. Ina’s recipe with orange zest and honey in the batter might be a perfect match for the Yeasted Pumpkin Bread with Cranberries, Pecans and Browned Butter. I used Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour to make this bread. I’m glad I did. It is a high protein flour that has a touch of malted barley flour to help yeast breads rise.
The butter sizzles and browns and the scent of toasting pecans signal something fabulous is beginning. When the heady aroma from the warming spices of fall tumble into the bowl to mingle with pumpkin, brown sugar and molasses you realize this might be a great recipe. Slowly adding the browned butter into the bowl there is time to savor the process, to watch the gluten stands begin to stretch into shiny elastic bands. With the pecans and cranberries comes the realization that the bread will be rich with flavor and texture, fit for an autumn celebration. This is my Thanksgiving gift to you.
|1C||warm water (100°-110°)|
|1 pkg/2-1/4t||active dry yeast|
|1C||canned pumpkin (not pie filling)|
|3C||bread flour, I used Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour|
- Prepare the browned butter by melting the butter in a saucepan or skillet with a light colored or shiny interior on medium heat. At first the butter may sputter for a bit as the milk solids cook. Gently swirl the pan until the milk solids are a warm toasty brown at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Heat the oven to 350°. Spread the pecans across the surface of a sheet pan and toast for 8-10 minutes until they are fragrant and turn a deep mahogany brown. Cool and then chop.
- Lightly butter the interior of a large bowl for proofing the bread dough. Line an 8 inch sauté or cake pan with parchment paper. Ideally the diameter of the sauté or cake pan should be one inch smaller than the Dutch oven. Make sure the parchment paper extends past the edges of the pan. This excess paper will be used to lift the bread into the hot Dutch oven.
- Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whipping attachment. Add the active dry yeast and mix until dissolved. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the pumpkin, brown sugar and molasses to the mixing bowl and thoroughly combine.
- Remove the whipping attachment from the mixer and replace with the dough hook. To the mixing bowl add the bread flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. Mix all the ingredients together, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Resist the temptation to add more flour. When all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, add a tablespoon the cooled brown butter to the mixing bowl. Resist the urge to add more than a tablespoon of butter at a time. Throughly mix the butter into the dough by starting on low speed and increasing to medium speed. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Repeat the process of adding a tablespoon of browned butter until all the butter has been added to the dough. Scrape all the butter and browned bits from the saucepan or skillet into the mixing bowl and throughly combine. Then mix the dough on medium-low speed for five minutes until the dough is sticky and elastic. The dough will be too wet to handle. Add the cranberries and one cup of the pecans. Mix into the dough so that the cranberries and pecans are evenly dispersed throughout the dough.
- Scrape the dough into the buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let proof for one to one and a half hours until almost doubled in size. Deflate the dough while still in the bowl by using a flexible bench scraper or large rubber scraper. Scrape the dough down from the outside edges of the bowl toward the center of the bowl. Then scrape the dough onto the piece of parchment paper that lines the 8 inch sauté or cake pan. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly across the surface of the dough and press then them down into the batter. Let the dough proof for 30-45 minutes or until almost doubled in size. Heat the oven to 425° while the dough proofs. Heat the Dutch oven and the lid in the hot oven for 30 minutes.
- When the bread is almost doubled in size, and with great care, place the dough into the hot Dutch oven by using the parchment paper as a sling. Cover the Dutch oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375°. Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, and then 10-15 minutes with the lid off. The bread will be a lovely deep tawny brown when it is finished cooking and the internal temperature of the loaf will be 200°. Using the parchment paper as a sling remove the bread from the Dutch oven to cool. Wait until the bread has cooled completely to slice.
Please note: To make this bread recipe a Dutch oven with a lid is needed.
Bob’s Red Mill graciously gifted me the Artisan Bread Flour I used to make the Yeasted Pumpkin Bread with Cranberries, Pecans and Browned Butter. I have no obligation to write about the Artisan Bread Flour and I am expressing my own opinions from the perspective of an avid baker.
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