When the temperature outside is below zero, it becomes morally imperative to make something that requires turning on the oven. Yesterday afternoon was the ideal time for making pumpkin bread.
I made it with something called \”cheese pumpkin.\” The skin of a cheese pumpkin is a lovely pale pinkish beige, and the pulp is supposed to be especially good for pies. I did not grow this pumpkin myself, but bartered it with a friend for a big bag of my Swiss chard. I had done the initial slaughtering and processing of the pumpkin–if you\’ve ever cut and cored a pumpkin, you know what I mean–back in the fall, and had baked and frozen the pulp.
My recipe was for pumpkin muffins, but I tend to double or quadruple recipes when I bake, and making four dozen muffins–greasing the cups, pouring the batter, then prying the finished muffins out of the cups without breaking off the tops, putting them carefully on cooling racks, and so on–seemed overly labor-intensive. I decided to make pumpkin bread instead, with the same recipe but a longer baking time and lower temperature.
Unlike what I suspect is the case with most people, I cook less in winter than in summer. In summer I spend endless hours cutting and blanching and freezing stuff. In winter I go to the basement freezer, pull out a bag of beans or broccoli or whatever, add a whisper of animal protein and some rice or pasta, and that\’s dinner.
Cooking is not like riding a bicycle–you do tend to get rusty. Thus I was disconcerted when our snow-plow guy called as I was adding baking powder to the dry ingredients and when I got off the phone I couldn\’t remember whether I\’d put in one or two teaspoons. And just before I added the liquid ingredients to the dry, I thought the latter looked rather skimpy. Sure enough, I\’d forgotten to put in the sugar.
Despite these narrowly-averted disasters, the four loaves came out lovely, firm and moist and much easier to deal with than 48 muffins would have been. We had a slice of pumpkin bread with dinner, along with soup made with barley from the store, broccoli from last year\’s garden, and chicken stock from one of our former laying hens (R.I.P.).
And we survived another day of winter.