- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What’s a quick bread? By definition, it’s a bread that does not rely upon yeast to rise; rather, baking powder or baking soda acts as the leavening agent.

You don’t have to let the dough rise nor do you knead it; just a quick mix of ingredients and pop it in the oven. What you gain in time savings you give up in light airy texture. Most quick breads are dense and very moist. Not a bad thing if you ask me.

Quick breads are usually flavored with fresh or dried fruit, vegetables, cheese, herbs and nuts, giving the bread its distinctive flavor. This is also true for muffins. You’ll notice that the tops of these breads often crack or split in the middle, giving them a rustic character.

Chocolate and pumpkin flavors are combined in this surprisingly sweet, spiced quick bread. Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a California coffee shop chain that is now opening across the country, serves slices of this bread, along with steaming cups of its famous, rich coffee.

When I re-created the recipe, I wanted to make sure that the chocolate stood alone in the pumpkin batter. To achieve this effect, I use a skewer to streak melted chocolate through the batter.

Since the recipe doubles perfectly, you can achieve two delicious treats: Make one loaf for slicing and stick another in the freezer to prepare for making pumpkin chocolate bread pudding at a later date.

Pumpkin chocolate loaf is the cornerstone to this extravagantly rich bread pudding. Chocolate and pumpkin are a sublime flavor combination epitomized here by a double dose of each. Slices of the loaf are bathed in a spiced pumpkin custard with melted chocolate chunks.

The primary bread recipe can be a welcome holiday treat for breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert with sliced ripe pears. You can make small-sized versions of this quick bread in smaller disposable containers and give them as hostess gifts.

Make sure to bake them for about 20 to 25 minutes or until just cooked through. The pudding transports easily, so offer to bring this for dessert. You just need to reheat it for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees before serving.

Quick bread tips. Replace old (more than 6 months) baking powder and baking soda for proper rising. Don’t overmix or the texture will be tough. Bake the batter as soon as you have prepared it because the leavening strength will weaken if it is not exposed to heat promptly. Test that the bread is done by sticking a wooden skewer in the center; it should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes and then unmold on a wire rack to finish cooling..

Bread pudding tips. Bake the pudding in a water bath to create an even baking temperature. Be creative; try different breads like challah, sourdough, croissants, French or pecan raisin. You can substitute half-and-half for whole milk. Make up the custard ingredients a day ahead and keep refrigerated.

Pumpkin chocolate loaf

Butter and flour for pan

13/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

11/4 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch nonstick loaf pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a mixing bowl and stir together.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until softened. Add the sugar and continue beating. Add the eggs and beat until well-blended. Add the pumpkin, vanilla and finally the flour mixture, beating just until well-blended.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler on medium-high heat until totally melted, about 5 minutes. Or melt in a glass bowl in the microwave for about 1½ to 2 minutes, or until completely melted and smooth.

Spoon half the batter into the loaf pan. Drop spoonfuls of half of the chocolate mixture on top of the batter and then swirl the chocolate into the batter with a wooden skewer. Repeat with the remaining batter and chocolate, making sure to swirl the chocolate into the pumpkin well.

Bake the loaf for about 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean in the center. Let the loaf cool at least 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature in slices. Makes 12 servings.

Pumpkin chocolate bread pudding

This recipe is from my book, “The Taste of the Season.”

Butter for pan


4 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

3 cups half-and-half

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 loaf of pumpkin chocolate loaf (see preceding recipe)

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

Boiling water

3/4 cup whipped cream or creme fraiche, for serving

Confectioners’ sugar (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 2-quart shallow oval or round baking dish.

Place the dish in a larger pan that will act as a double boiler.

For the custard: In a mixing bowl, with electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and egg yolks until they are frothy.

Slowly add the sugar and beat the mixture until it is thick and lemon-colored.

Add the pumpkin puree and half-and-half to the egg mixture, reducing the speed to low. Add the vanilla extract and the pumpkin pie spice.

Slice the pumpkin chocolate loaf into 1/8-inch slices and place the slices overlapping to fill the baking dish.

Ladle the custard mixture over the pumpkin bread slices until the baking dish is filled to the top. Place the chocolate chunks all around the pudding, making sure that they are evenly distributed.

Pour enough boiling water around the larger baking pan to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Place the pudding in the oven and bake it for 40 to 45 minutes.

Open the oven using heavy oven mitts and with a large spoon, push the bread down. The liquid custard will rise.

With the spoon, evenly redistribute the custard over the bread slices, if necessary.

Bake for about 10 more minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out barely clean. Remove the pudding from the oven, sprinkle it with confectioners’ sugar and cut it into squares. Serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.


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