If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s take a regular person’s recipe and make it earnestly healthy. It started in college, when I was drinking the amount of calories in one night that I should’ve been consuming in one week, and sleeping or studying far more than I was working out. Needless to say, the Freshman Fifteen stretched on for a few extra years (and a few extra pounds) and here I am, five years later, still watching what I eat pretty closely (JoJo’s pizza nonewithstanding: I do not have an iron will here, people) while my weight fluctuates gently in the 5 – 10 pound range between “Hey! You look great!” and “Maybe you should hit the treadmill and lay off the nachos, honey.” Fortunately, I have the full support of Boyfriend in terms of eating healthy because 1) the kid grew up in a vegetarian household and gets a little anxious if he eats even lean meat several days in a row, 2) he doesn’t want to get fat either, and 3) he’d probably like his girlfriend to stay looking how she does.
So to balance out the nights when I fall off the wagon and find myself eating bar food and drinking too much beer, I do my best to make my own recipes as healthy as possible, without sacrificing the taste that things like butter and sugar impart. And when one of my co-workers smuggled a few loaves of her homemade pumpkin bread passed her salivating children last week, I knew I was going to have change up the recipe and make some of my own.
You’d have to be ignoring virtually everything I’ve written since the middle of August to miss how much I adore the rich flavors of autumn. Biting into that soft, orange loaf was like eating a mouthful of pumpkin pie: nutmeg and cinnamon, rounded out with the sharp tinge of cloves. But there was no feasible way that deliciousness was achieved without butter and oil and lots of white flour, and I just didn’t think that was necessary when I made my own. First of all, I vastly prefer whole wheat everything, because the depth of flavor makes things so much nuttier and heartier: and when you’re baking items to stand up to the strength of pumpkin pie spices, I just don’t think white flour is robust enough. I removed nearly all of the sugar (and used brown, not white), because I think that the saccharine quality of too much sugar overpowers all the other ingredients, and that the cinnamon and nutmeg do enough to give the bread sweetness. Finally, I added some wheat and barley cereal on top for crunch, and removed the oil in favor of extra pumpkin.
The result is a moist loaf with all the flavors of pumpkin pie and none of the cloying sweetness. It’s the kind of bread that you could eat for either a light breakfast or a delicious snack, and not feel bad about it later. And with so many fabulous Oktoberfest beers in the stores this month, it’s really best to save those calories for later in the evening.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from allrecipes.com
2 2/3 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ (or oatmeal)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup applesauce
Several tbsp wheat/barley cereal (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter a loaf pan.
Mix together pumpkin puree, applesauce, and eggs in a medium bowl. In a separate, larger bowl, mix together all remaining ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix together until well-blended. Pour batter into the loaf pan, sprinkle with cereal, and bake for 40 minutes or so – until completely set. Because this bread is so moist, the toothpick is pretty much always going to come out clean, so wait for it to really puff up and set. The top will be cracked when it’s done, and if you’re unsure, use a thin knife to check rather than a toothpick – more surface area to catch uncooked batter. I actually undercooked mine a bit, and I regret it, so make sure it’s good and done.