A large turkey, a small group of friends, and The Big Game makes for the best of Thanksgiving holidays to me.
And I'll bet that many of you have the same thought as I do when the turkey comes out of the oven. Sure, you're excited about the first round of turkey and gravy on your plate, but aren't you already thinking about the cold turkey sandwiches that come later in the day? I know I am.
In fact, I think about those sandwiches often enough that my hubby and I will make them even in the height of summer. While I do skip the actual roasting of the turkey, we pick up a roasted chicken at the store, make the stuffing, open the cranberry sauce, and bake up a loaf of homemade bread. Ah, the delight of such a sammie is just as strong in July as it is in November. Mmmm-mmm!
Most often our Thanksgiving sandwiches are stacked on a soft and tender dinner roll from my age-old recipe, but this year I'm going to be adding some flair to our bread basket with Whole Grain Pumpkin Yeast Bread. I've been testing it out in the kitchen here, and it's become one of my favorites. My husband loves it for toast in the morning, too. Once you get a taste of the rich, mellow pumpkin, lightly spiced and not too sweet, you'll be a convert, too.
While you can certainly add all of the ingredients straight to your mixing bowl or bread machine bucket as listed in the recipe, I like to break it into two stages. First add:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup canned or puréed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour (white whole wheat or premium)
Mix everything together by hand and let the mixture sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. There's a lot of moisture here, and it takes time for the flour to fully hydrate. By giving the ingredients a chance to sit, the flour can get a jump-start absorbing the liquids, which can save you from adding too much flour later on.
Once you've let the initial mix sit, you can add the rest of the ingredients:
1 3/4 to 2 cups (7 1/4 to 8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Now at first I was skeptical about adding spices to the bread. I didn't want to end up with something that tasted like pumpkin pie, as much as I love it for dessert. Happily, the spices don't overpower but instead play lovely background notes against the pumpkin. Like a whisper instead of a shout, they get the point across right when you need it.
Continue to knead the bread by hand, in your mixer, or using the dough cycle of your bread machine. Check to be sure the dough isn't too wet and sticky, and add more flour by the tablespoonful as needed.
This dough will still be softer and moister than that of regular sandwich bread. As long as it doesn't stick to you like glue, you're good to go.
I'm stopping the mixer at this point so you can see that my dough is nearly ready. It's not too wet, nor too dry. I still have a small amount of flour around the edges of the bowl,but the main body of dough is holding together nicely.
Some bread doughs are going to be naturally more sticky and wet than others, and even as you work more flour into them, it will keep getting absorbed; so it's easy to add too much. By stopping here and working the dough gently by hand until smooth, you'll have much better control over the final outcome.
Can you keep going in the mixer or bread machine? Absolutely! For me, I still like a little hands-on during the process.
Set the dough aside to rise, covered, for about 45 to 50 minutes. Be patient as you watch the dough; it doesn't start to rise for about 20 minutes or so, but will be full and puffy by the end of the rise time.
Check out my handy-dandy rising method of popping a bowl over my mixer bowl. Apparently, it also makes a pretty good mirror, too. Say "cheese"!
Gently deflate the dough and shape it into a smooth log. Place itin a greased 9" x 5" loaf pan and cover again for the final rise.
There you go, a nicely domed loaf that isn't overflowing the edges of the pan.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a digital thermometer reads 190°F when inserted into the center of the loaf. Remove the loaf from the oven, and after a couple of minutes transfer it to a rack to cool.
Brushing the finished loaf with melted butter is completely optional, but yields the softest crust. Be sure to cool this bread completely before slicing, otherwise the interior can be gummy. I know it's torture, but sometimes we just have to suffer for our art.
So, during this holiday season, pick up an extra can of pumpkin while it's on sale, and make up a few of these sumptuous breads. A baked loaf will keep in the freezer up to 3 months – right about the same time you run out of turkey leftovers!
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