Pumpkin Cornbread {Recipe} {Autumn Roundup}

When my friend Di announced that she was hosting an Autumn baking roundup, I signed on right away. This is my favorite time of year, and I love the flavors of the season. I wasn’t sure what I would make (the theme is “Handmade Loaves”), but I knew I’d find something appropriate to the Fall weather.

I actually came up with this recipe the other night when I was gearing up for the Pumpkin Dinner Roundup that I hosted last week. I had already made and blogged my recipe for that event, Stuffed Pumpkin. But I got the idea to try a cornbread featuring pumpkin, and I thought about changing my Pumpkin Roundup post if it worked out as planned. That’s when I remembered Di’s roundup and decided to submit this recipe for that event.

Like most cornbread recipes, this one begins by mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately, then combining them and mixing briefly before spreading in a pan.

Pumpkin Cornbread

 Ingredients 

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

 Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Grease 8×11 ½-inch pan with spray oil.
  2. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large bowl until well mixed.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk eggs, then add pumpkin, butter, and maple syrup and mix well.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until evenly moistened. Spread batter in pan and smooth top.
  5. Bake cornbread for 25-30 minutes, until firm to touch and cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean.

Yields 8-10 servings.

This was a delicious cornbread, and paired especially well with chili. I ate it warm on the day it was baked, and it had a definite pumpkin flavor. It reminded me of pumpkin bread, although not as sweet. I tried more the next morning and was surprised to find that at room temperature it tasted more like a traditional cornbread. I could hardly taste the pumpkin.

So, warm or room temperature, this is a great cornbread. And perfect for a cool Fall day.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins {ModBak}

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the Quick Breads section of The Modern Baker is that the breads really are quick. For example, in the 15 minutes it took to bake the ginger scones, I mixed up the butterscotch scones and had them ready to go into the oven as soon as the ginger scones came out.

So even though I usually save my baking for the weekends, the other night after work I decided to throw together Irish soda bread muffins. I got back from walking the dog at 7:30 was relaxing in my chair by 7:50, having mixed up the muffins and cleaned the kitchen. Yes, kids, when Nick Malgieri says “quick”, he means it!

This simple recipe consists of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, caraway seeds, unsalted butter, sugar, egg, buttermilk (I substituted buttermilk powder and half-and-half), and currants. After assembling the ingredients, I lined the muffin tin with paper liners and preheated the oven to 350° F.

Next, I mixed the dry ingredients (other than the sugar) in a bowl, then whisked the butter and sugar in a separate bowl. I mixed in the egg, then half the cream, half the flour mxture, then the rest of the cream. I tossed the currants with a little flour, added them to the batter, then folded in the rest of the flour.

I found that an ice cream scoop was the perfect size to fill the muffin tins. I baked the muffins for 30 minutes, then cooled them in the pan.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was another wonderful recipe. The muffins were delicious — slightly sweet and very flavorful. I especially enjoyed them with a little butter and fig preserves.

A Tale of Two (Make that Three) Brioches

When I read about the brioche variations, there was little doubt which one I would choose.  The “Rich Man’s Brioche”, in addition to its name, has the draw of containing a full pound of butter, almost 90% in terms of baker’s percentages.  But if I was going to make such a decadent loaf of bread, I had to do it right.  This meant ordering brioche molds. 

As I looked at the BBA pictures, I realized I already owned a few molds, although when I bought them I had no idea what they were.  I picked them up at a cooking store because I thought they were the perfect size for measuring dry ingredients like yeast and salt on my scale.  I have two sizes of molds, very small and sort of medium-smallish.  I knew these would not be enough for baking the brioche, so I found some online to order.  I ordered a set of four 2 1/2-inch molds, which I think are probably about the same size as my medium-smallish ones; and a 6 1/2-inch mold, to make a loaf (kind of like the one pictured in BBA).

My molds are on the way, but I got to the weekend and decided I had to bake.  I was reading the brioche recipes again and noted that PR describes the Poor Man’s Brioche as making a good pain de mie.  Since I like to bake our sandwich bread, hadn’t used my Pullman pan in a few weeks, and figured it would make killer bread pudding, I decided to go ahead and make the Poor Man’s version this weekend and the Rich Man’s when my pans arrive.

In making the two versions, I was interested in comparing a few things.  First and foremost, the taste.  I wanted to know just how much that extra 3/4 pound of butter would do for the flavor.  And second, I was interested to see the difference in how the doughs handle, as the recipe indicates that the Rich dough can be challenging to handle, while the Poor version is more like French bread dough.

Poor Man’s Brioche

I mixed the Poor Man’s Brioche dough following the BBA recipe, with the exception of the milk.  My milk was bad, so I used water for the milk in the sponge and added powdered milk with the dry ingredients.  The dough was beautiful.  The eggs gave it a rich, golden color, even before adding the butter.  It needed a bit of extra flour during the kneading stage (I kneaded on low speed in my Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer), and the dough was silky and smooth by the end of the kneading period, and much more like the bread dough I am used to than the Rich Man’s dough would turn out (more on that below).  It rose beautifully and right on schedule.

Brioche en Bucket

I used three of my brioche molds and the Pullman pan.  I could tell right away that the dough would not fill the Pullman when it rose and baked, but I decided to use it anyway. 

Buncha Brioche Dough

After proofing, I baked the brioche molds at 400 dF for about 15 minutes.  They looked and smelled fantastic.  Two of them even lived to cool.  Then I baked the loaf at 350 dF for about 40 minutes, until it registered 190 dF on my instant-read thermometer. Since I knew it wouldn’t fill the pan, I left the lid off. The loaves were beautiful.  I especially liked the shiny top crust that the egg wash gave them. 

Brioche and Friends

As for the flavor, the small loaves were a bit dry; perhaps they should have come out of the oven sooner.  The pain de mie loaf was delicious.  Tasting it, I could see how some people described it as “tasting a sweet, buttery cloud”. But alas, it did not live to be sandwich bread, as on the first taste, it screamed out to be made into French toast and bread pudding.  So I cut some thick slices for bread pudding (see the N’awlins Bread Pudding post) and some thinner slices, which I used to make some of the best French toast ever.

Brioche French Toast

I enjoyed this bread more as French toast and bread pudding than just by the slice.  I might make it again for bread pudding, and I am interested in trying it with brie en croute.  But I wouldn’t make it with the intention of using as a sandwich loaf.  My standard pain de mie recipes (white and whole grain) are much better suited for that.

Rich Man’s Brioche

My brioche molds arrived mid-week, so I started the Rich Man’s Brioche dough on Friday evening.  We were planning to go away for most of Saturday, but I gathered from the recipe that when it comes to chilling this dough, longer is better.  

A few things really stand out about this recipe.  First, it calls for a lot of yeast (1 tablespoon instant).  And of course it calls for a perverse amount of butter (one full pound).  I was also surprised to realize that the dough is not kneaded.  Instead, it is mixed, either with the paddle attachment on your mixer (as I did it) or with a spoon.  Finally, I got the impression that this would not be your standard French bread-type dough, but would be much more slack.

I mixed the sponge according to the BBA recipe, then added the eggs (all 5 of them!) and mixed well.  I mixed in the dry ingredients (still using the paddle attachment), then allowed the dough to rest for 5 minutes.  I scraped down the dough, then added one stick of butter and mixed for a minute or so on speed 4.  I repeated the scraping, adding butter, and mixing for each stick of butter.  Then I scraped the bowl and mixed with the paddle attachment on speed 4 for about 6 minutes, stopping to scrape down the dough two or three times.  The dough was very soft and somewhat gooey.

A note on ingredients.  The butter and eggs should be at room temperature.  I always set them out the night before I plan to bake to make sure they are really room temp.  There is nothing worse than waiting for ingredients to warm up when you want to bake!

Mixing Rich Brioche in KA

When I was finished mixing, it was the strangest dough.  It’s difficult to describe the consistency of this dough, but I would say it was almost what you might expect to get if you mixed cake batter and sugar cookie dough.  It was very close to the consistency of my 100% hydration sourdough starter.

Rich Brioche Dough in Bowl

The directions said to put the dough on a baking sheet, but I decided it might keep its shape better in an 8×8 baking pan, so that’s what I used.

Rich Brioche Dough in Le Crueset

I sprayed the parchment with spray oil before adding the dough, and sprayed the top of the dough and my plastic wrap as well.  Then I put the dough in the fridge for a nice, long cool down.

I didn’t get around to baking on Saturday, so I pulled the dough out Sunday morning.  It really rose in the refrigertor.  I would say it almost doubled in size.

Rich Brioche - Risen

PR says to keep the dough very cold, so I cut off a chunk and put the rest back in the fridge.

Cutting Rich Man's Brioche Dough

If I thought the consistency of the dough was strange before, this really took the cake (or should I say, butter?).  The book warned that this was not an easy dough to work with, and indeed it was strange — slippery, but quite mailable.  It felt like shaping cold butter.  I worked quickly, so as not to let the dough get too warm.  From the first chunk I measured 2.5 oz pieces, which I shaped into brioche a tetes for my small molds.  Then I got the dough back out and measured out a one pound chunk for my large mold.  The rest (about 14.5 oz) I put in a standard loaf pan.

Rich Man's - Ready to Proof

I let the dough proof for about two hours, then I brushed the small brioches with egg wash and preheated the oven to 400 dF.  The small loaves took about 20 minutes to bake, and I prepared the larger loaves while the smaller ones were in the oven.  When the small loaves were done baking, I reduced the oven to 350 dF for the large loaves, which I baked for 35 minutes.

See below for the pictures of the final product.  I really liked this bread.  It was rich (bien sur!), with a dense, moist crumb.  It didn’t need any butter and was delicious with orange marmalade.  Will I make it again?  Read on….

Middle-Class Brioche

I hadn’t planned on making all three “classes” of brioche; but so many people were posting about how much they liked the middle-class version that I decided to give it a try.  I mixed up the dough while the Rich Man’s Brioche was proofing.  It was really similar in consistency to the Rich version, but not quite as gooey.  The Middle Class dough was still quite soft, but it felt a bit more like traditional bread dough than the Rich Man’s dough.  I used the same 8×8 pan to bulk ferment the dough.

Middle Class - Ready for Fridge

It didn’t rise quite as much as the Rich Man’s Brioche, but I don’t know if that was a difference in the dough or because it only bulk fermented for about 5 hours.  It definitely rose, though, and looked like it was ready to go.

Middle Class - Risen

I measured and shaped the dough exactly the same as the Rich version and let the dough proof for about the same amount of time.  Here is the dough before and after proofing.

Middle Class - Shaped and Ready for ProofingMiddle Class - Ready to Bake

Again, I baked the Middle-Class loaves as I had the Rich Man’s version, baking the small brioches first, then the larger loaves.  One thing that really surprised me was the oven spring.  Although the dough hadn’t risen as much during the bulk ferment, it looked about the same when it went into the oven.  But here’s what it looked like coming out:

Middle Class Brioche with First Class Oven Spring!

Here are the Rich Man’s loaves (on the left), along with the Middle-Class loaves.  They both came out beautifully, but the Middle-Class loaves won out on oven spring.

All the Pretty Brioches

The crumb looked almost exactly the same (Rich is on the left).

Crumby Crumb Picture

So, how about the taste?  The Middle-Class Brioche was absolutely delicious!  Again, I tried it plain and with marmalade and loved it both ways.  And imagine my surprise when I did a side-by-side comparison of the Rich and Middle-Class breads:  I actually preferred the Middle-Class version!  I thought it tasted richer and more buttery than the Rich Man’s version. 

In the end, I was glad to have tried all three versions.  And I will definitely make the Middle-Class version again (and again, and again).  The Rich bread was really delicious; but for the extra butter and the difficulty working the dough, I think I’ll stick with the Middle Class.  And the Poor Man’s version?  I’d like to try that again to use for brie en croute, as PR recommends.  And I’d bake it just to make bread pudding and French toast with it any day.