Yeasted Pumpkin Bread
Sephardi Jews traditionally eat foods made with pumpkin and squash on Rosh Hashanah, when they hold symbolic significance. Jewish traders also played a major role in spreading the New World gourd across the Mediterranean during the time of Columbus, and Sephardi cuisine continues to utilize pumpkin in many baked goods, jams, and other dishes today. This tender, gently spiced bread, called pan de calabaza, can be shaped in a spiral for Rosh Hashanah, baked in a loaf pan, or formed into rolls. But this recipe’s sunset-colored challah-style braid (plait) is particularly beautiful. Serve it on an autumnal Shabbat or at any fall meal. The leftovers make outstanding Challah French Toast.
- 1 packet (¼ oz/7g) active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
- ½ cup (100 g) plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml/8 fl oz) warm water (110°F/43°C)
- 4½–5 cups (630–700 g) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more for kneading
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup (130 g) canned unsweetened pumpkin purée
- ¼ cup (60 ml/2 fl oz) vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
- 2 eggs
- In a very large bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the warm water. Let sit until foaming, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl, whisk together 4½ cups (630 g) flour, the remaining ½ cup (100 g) sugar, the cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and salt.
- Add the pumpkin purée, oil and 1 egg to the yeast mixture and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and stir until a shaggy dough begins to form. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead well, adding up to ½ cup (70 g) more flour, a little at a time, as necessary until a supple, elastic dough forms, about 10 minutes. (The kneading can also be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook, 5 to 7 minutes.) Grease a large bowl with about 1 teaspoon of oil, add the dough and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap (cling film) or a clean tea towel and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently deflate the dough with the heel of your hand and divide in half. Divide each dough half into thirds and roll each third into a long rope. Pinch the top of 3 ropes together and braid (plait), pinching at the bottom to seal. Place the braided loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining 3 ropes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C/Gas Mark 5).
- Meanwhile, whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and brush the loaves with a coat of egg wash. (Set the remaining egg wash aside in the fridge.) Cover the loaves loosely with lightly greased parchment paper and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- Uncover the loaves and brush with a second coat of egg wash. Bake until deep golden brown and cooked through, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf registers 195°F (90°C), 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Revive leftovers by reheating them briefly in an oven or toaster (mini) oven.
- Recipe reprinted from THE JEWISH COOKBOOK by Leah Koenig (Phaidon, 2019).