Truth be told, I don’t like it when my husband likes anything of anyone else’s better than he likes mine. I don’t care if it’s a car, a dress, or a meal. If he’s fawning over how amazing it is, I’m probably looking for the closest bat to bash it with. This is how so many of my recipes have come to fruition. He starts oohing and aahing over something and I’m all stank-face mad because it isn’t mine. So, I create a recipe that I feel is better to get him back on the right track. He’s probably pulling fast ones on me left and right, but, hey! It builds up my cooking game. He lingered over the last slice of a store-bought multigrain bread just recently, so I had to pull out the big guns and create this Fruit and Grain Pumpkin Bread to shut him down.
And shut him down I did.
I honestly don’t think Hector tries to be disloyal to my kitchen-game. He just really likes food. Recently, we had his Soldiers over for Thanksgiving dinner. Inevitably the conversation came around to the story of how we met. We tried to say, “At Bible study,” but the Soldiers know him better than that. When we told them the real story (we met in a nightclub), he confessed that the clincher for his decision on whether, or not, to marry me was watching me cook. He realized that my effortless ability in the kitchen meant he’d never go hungry and that was what sealed the deal for him.We always say it was an arranged marriage, and that love came later. But, his astute observation of my culinary skill was spot-on.
The man is well-fed, y’all. But, because he’s also a self-admitted glutton, any good cooking may make his belly stray. So, this is why recipes like fruit and grain breads become a household fixture.
This bread is a creation that developed after I went a little crazy buying pumpkins one fall. I came up with recipes like this Harvest Pork Stew and these Pumpkin Cheesecake Empanadas, yet I still had an obscene amount of pureed pumpkin leftover. It just so happened to coincide with the food-harlot’s breakup with his beloved multi-grain bread, so it inspired me to knock some sense back into him. While I love to use homemade pumpkin puree, canned pumpkin puree will work just as well. The walnuts I use are also interchangeable with pecans if that’s what you have on hand instead.
All great yeast breads start with three things: water, sugar, and yep, you’ve guessed it- yeast. Yeast loves sugar, and sugar loves yeast. You want to get your yeast to act right? Add some sugar to it. The yeast feeds off of the energy it “breathes” in from the sugar to “bloom”, hence the reason yeast and water (and often sugar) are mixed together prior to being added to the flour or other dry ingredients.
Typically, you are going to bloom the yeast in a quantity of water. The number one reason is to rejuvenate the yeast and begin the process of respiration (breathing in that energy from the sugar) prior to it going into the flour. The second reason is to make sure it is still alive before adding it to the remaining ingredients. I can tell you from experience, there is nothing more heartbreaking than moving along with a bread dough only to find out the yeast is dead. It is always recommended to test your yeast to ensure it’s still alive. How do you know it’s alive? About five minutes after adding the yeast to your warm water with a bit of sugar, you should see it going completely berserk in the water. The liquid begins to puff up and bubble, then it will turn foamy and cloudy.
That is the amazing sign that there’s life in that thar bowl.
Once you’ve established that your yeast is good to go, the rest of the bread dough comes together pretty quickly. We add very soft unsalted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and the pumpkin puree.
We also add the spices. Here, I’m just using my Pumpkin Spice Blend.
Once all of that is in the bowl, you throw in the fruit (cranberries), pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and the chopped walnuts. What I love most about this bread is the versatility of the ingredients. “Fruit and Grain” really should be “Fruit and Nut” bread, but I digress. Use what ever dried fruit you have on hand. Dried currants, raisins, or even berries, would work amazingly well in place of cranberries. Pecans, chopped pistachios, or cashews, and sunflower seeds are all great alternative as well. Don’t limit your fruit selection to just cranberries, is alls I’m saying. Whatever you decide to use, blend all of it together until it looks utterly disgusting.
Then add your whole wheat flour and salt. Now, I get asked more often than not, “Why do recipe writers tell me to add the salt at the end (or separate from the yeast)?” Well, any baker worth their weight knows that salt kills yeast. If sugar is yeasts’ bae, then salt is its bitter baby mama. The two just don’t get along. Seriously, salt will kill the yeast, which will inhibit your bread’s rising. Adding it with the flour towards the end of the mixing allows there to be a buffer between it and the yeast.
Blend your batter together to incorporate all that fruit and grain goodness you’ve got going on in there.
You’re going to gradually add your all-purpose flour to the batter until a thick dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Now it’s time for you to earn your loaves…
…turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Kneading dough helps the gluten present in the hydrated flour develop its strands. These strands are what create that chewy interior we know, and love, bread for. Knead your dough for 5 minutes, adding only enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter (or to you). Continue kneading for another five minutes until the dough is elastic and no longer sticky.
Place your ball of dough into your cleaned and lightly oiled mixing bowl (the one you mixed the gross batter in before). Turn the dough over so that the top surface is oiled. This classic move helps lubricate your dough’s surface and prevents a nasty, dry skin from forming on the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free environment. I like to use a cold oven with the oven light turn on, or my microwave for this.
Allow the dough to rise for one to one and a half hours, or until doubled in bulk. Because this is a heartier bread than the ones we typically eat, I knock the dough down after the first rise by punching the crap out of it. No, for real. I punch it to expel the gases and deflate the dough. I may have issues, but I’m not that crazy. If you don’t mind a coarse-grained bread, you can skip this part.
Deflate the dough and recover the bowl. Place the dough back into isolation in the oven (or microwave) and allow it to rise a second time. This should take another hour or hour and a half. No, bread making is not a quick process. It is worth the work, though.
After its final rise, whether that be the first or second, portion the dough into separate loaves. I wanted to make three loaves, but decided I would serve these for breakfast, so I opted to make two larger loaves, instead. Cut your dough into equal portions with a bench scraper. You don’t have to precise here, just eyeball it.
Form your portions of dough into oblong loaves and place them inside your greased bread pans. Allow the loaves to rise in the warm, draft-free environment for 45 minutes or until they reach the top of the bread pan.
While the dough is rising for the final time, preheat your oven (not the one the bread is rising in, obviously) to 400°F.
Once the dough has finished its rise, place the pans into the hot oven and reduce the temperature to 350°F. The blast of the higher heat will help create a crisp crust by the end of baking. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped, or they’ve taken on a deep brown color.
Allow the bread to cool for five minutes before removing from the pan and allowing it to cool completely. This bread cuts better when lukewarm, so patience is key here.
Slice and serve your bread immediately, or wrap well in plastic film and freeze for up to two months.
Pin this recipe for later, and share a loaf with a friend, or a jealous lover!
Fruit and Grain Pumpkin Bread
Yield 2 8" loaves
Sweet pie pumpkin are best for making pumpkin puree.
2 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 tsp pumpkin spice blend
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp kosher salt
4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, sugar, and water. Allow the yeast to bloom for five minutes. If the mixture does not bubble and foam after five minutes, discard and begin again with fresh yeast.
- Add the butter, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin, pumpkin spice blend, cranberries, seeds and walnuts to the mixing bowl. Blend the mixture together with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer.
- Once the mixture is blended, add the whole wheat flour and salt. Mix to form a thick batter. Slowly add the all-purpose flour to the batter. Continue mixing, and adding the remaining flour, until the dough holds together and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. The dough should feel pliable; too stiff or dry.
- Turn the dough onto a floured countertop and knead it for 4-5 minutes. Stop kneading; allow the dough to rest while you clean your bowl and oil it with a small amount (1 tsp) of vegetable oil. Continue kneading the dough for another 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky.
- Place the dough into the greased bowl and turn it over once to coat its surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic film and a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free area of the kitchen for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
- Punch the dough down to expel the gases. If you prefer a dough with a finer crumb, allow the dough to rise a second time for an additional hour.
- Once the dough has finished its rise, punch it down a final time and divide the dough into two equal pieces. Shape the dough into loaves and put them into greased loaf pans. Allow the dough to rise one final time for 1 hour, or until the dough reaches the tops of the pans.
- While your loaves are rising, preheat your oven to 400°F. Place the loaf pans into the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F. Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.
- Allow the loaves to cool for five minutes before removing them from the pan and cooling until warm-they slice best when warm. You may also wrap the loaves in plastic film and freeze for up to two months before enjoying.
Substitute raisins, dried currants, or dried berries for the cranberries.
Instead of walnuts use: pecans, cashews or pistachios.
Instead of pumpkin seeds use: shelled sunflower, chia, or flax seeds.
Try these other recipes that were created in a desperate attempt to regain my husband’s affections: