It is autumn. Pumpkins are everywhere.
I do love pumpkin. It is the oldest cultivated vegetable in the New World. Pumpkin seeds have been discovered in Mexico indicating people grew it for food 7,000 years ago, possibly earlier. Along with Aztec favorites corn, squash, amaranth, and beans, pumpkin made its way to other countries because it is so easily digestible and delicious. Not to speak of being full of vitamins A, B, C, and E, iron, magnesium, and potassium, with beta-carotene giving this domed queen of gourds its bright orange color.
The other day I came upon a can of pumpkin and agave syrup in the pantry. Pumpkin bread immediately came to mind as a way of using up whatever was lurking in my kitchen before the holiday baking season. I would have preferred to use honey in this bread but I didn’t have any on hand. In the fridge, I found a big tub of Greek yogurt and knew it would add needed moisture. I had a dozen eggs, flour, and spices. And oil made from that other native plant, corn.
Corn oil is much maligned these days as highly processed and bad for you. But according to medicinenet.com, 100 grams of corn oil contains 94 grams of fat of which over half is polyunsaturated, and 22.6 ml. of vitamin E.
I was intrigued by making bread with ingredients that are native to this region, even though I would not call canned pumpkin, corn oil, or agave syrup farm to table. In a nod to pumpkin, agave, and corn I’m naming this creation Arizona Pumpkin Bread.
Here's the recipe:
2 tbsp corn oil, or other neutral flavored oil.
½ cup agave syrup
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 can of pumpkin puree. This should yield about one and a half cups
1/3 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
(Or, to make it simple, 2 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice, which contains the above ingredients)
¾ cup chopped walnuts
Grease and flour a loaf pan and pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Measure the flour into a large bowl and whisk to aerate.
Combine the spices and salt in a ramekin and stir till blended.
Into a smaller bowl, pour the oil, syrup, yogurt, egg, vanilla, and puree. Stir vigorously till smooth and well mixed.
When the oven is heated, tip the spices into the liquid ingredients and mix quickly, then pour the spiced liquid into the flour. Fold twice and then add the walnuts. Fold gently only until just mixed. Turn everything into the prepared pan with a spatula and put it in the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes or until a chopstick inserted into the bread comes out clean. Remove from the oven, let cool for five minutes, then turn out of the pan onto a rack.
This bread is moist and not too sweet. It tastes even better the next day.