My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread, to me, is the “pinnacle” of Quick Bread. It’s a gorgeous bread, very moist, perhaps just a bit dense, like Pumpkin Bread should be. Of course, it’s flavored with the traditional Pumpkin Pie Spice, long before Pumpkin Pie Spice was even a thing. I imagine the flavoring was pretty exotic way back when Grandma made this recipe, back in the day when spices like cinnamon and clove were sold in tiny little metal cans.
Like many old recipes, this Pumpkin Bread makes two loaves. It’s perfect if you want to bring something to a food day, pot luck or to a family in need. You can make the recipe and have one to share or give and one to keep at home. Or you could just make one to eat and one to tuck away in the freezer for a rainy day.
About Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread:
I never saw my Grandma’s recipe box until after her death, and as I went through the yellowed, faded cards I saw many recipes that were familiar. Hello Salmon Loaf (how I hated that, and I’ve reworked that recipe since so now it’s “Not Grandma’s Salmon Loaf“). And of course, her classic Midwestern Ham Loaf was there! Just as it should be in every Grandma recipe box from her era. And there was her wonderful Apple Cake with Caramel Rum Sauce. Go Grandma on that Rum! Her Pumpkin bread, though; this one I set aside. I love love love this bread and I knew I’d be making it very soon.
Back in the ’60s when I grew up, no family gathering was complete without an array of quick breads (there are so many kinds; check this list from Wikipedia), always homemade (you couldn’t buy it at the store back then) and laid out on platters. The occasion didn’t matter, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, quick bread was always there. To celebrate, to comfort, to give you a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to get you through. Walnut Bread, Date Nut Bread, and of course the ubiquitous Banana Bread always put in an appearance, but this bread was my all-out favorite. And still is.
And while this Pumpkin Bread is perfect as is, to eat with a fork or out of hand, my favorite way to serve? Sliced thickly on a plate, a bit of my Homemade Butterscotch Sauce or maybe some of my Salted Caramel Sauce drizzled over, and a dollop of Brandy Spiced Whipping cream. (Just whip your cream as usual and add about a teaspoon of brandy and pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or the same of apple or pumpkin pie spice.)
Making Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread:
When you’re talking about a good Pumpkin Bread (or any Quick Bread) there are a few things to look for. The loaf should have a crack down the top center, but still be nicely rounded. There should be just a little bit of stickiness around the outer edges and the loaf should be heavy for its size and very moist. Quick Breads, once wrapped should be even better the next day (if you ever make one and it’s a little dry, try that trick) and they freeze well. And of course, they should always taste amazing! Grandma’s Pumpkin Bread delivers on all counts.
Part of what makes this bread so good, and why I know this is an old recipe, probably from the 1930s to ’40s is that it uses shortening rather than oil or butter. There are very few recipes I use shortening in; this is one of them. I give a substitution in the recipe, though, if you’re opposed and want to use butter instead. Shortening doesn’t convert to the same amount of butter, so you’ll notice the butter is an odd amount. If you’re ever converting an old recipe to update it and remove the shortening remember that little tidbit; a straight substitution will likely leave your recipe dry and you’ll wonder why it wasn’t as good as you remembered.
When measuring Shortening, Lard or Butter that isn’t in sticks, use the displacement method. Fill a measuring cup with cold water, leaving out the amount you wish to measure. For instance, in a two-cup measuring cup, if you wish to measure 1/2 cup of shortening, fill with 1 1/2 cups of water. Add shortening until the level comes to 2 cups. Since it floats, you may need to press down slightly on the fat to submerge for an accurate measurement. The water will easily drain off whichever fat you’ve used.
Saving Money on Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread:
Of course, you’ll always want to shop well for baking goods, especially during Holiday sales when they are deeply discounted or at Aldi. Freeze anything containing flour for three days when you bring it in the house; you’ll avoid any possibility of any “peskies” invading your cupboard.
Eggs, unless their special ones, organic free-range and so on, are pretty cheap, but they’re usually cheapest at Aldi. They’re not bad at Costco, either, although the amounts you have to buy are much larger. Check the pricing at the regular grocery store; sometimes the packages of a dozen are less per egg than the packages of 18, and of course, if you see them on sale (normally around a holiday week) stock up. Eggs keep well for two to three weeks past their “buy date.”
The pumpkin puree is usually at the best price before Thanksgiving although now and then you might find it at a great sale after the holidays. Don’t be afraid to stock up for the next year’s holiday season. Canned pumpkin is actually better when “aged.” It mellows and some of the flavors take on a caramelly note.Print
My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 2 loaves 1x
- Category: Breads
- Method: Mixer
- Cuisine: American
- 2/3 cup shortening or 2/3 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 2 2/3 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 16 ounces canned pumpkin (if you’re buying a 15 ounce can, or even a 29 ounce can and dividing it, don’t worry about it, the bread will still be fine.)
- 2/3 cup water
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5 bread pan and set aside.
Cream shortening with sugar, switch to low and add eggs one at a time, then pumpkin, and finally, the water.
In another bowl, sift together or whisk together, the rest of ingredients, flour, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, and salt. Mixing on low, add to pumpkin mixture.
Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake for about one hour at 350 degrees. (This may vary depending on what size you use – the bread will darken a bit and crack. It’s done when a toothpick put about halfway between the edge and the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.) As with all baked goods, do not overbake.
Per Serving: 266 Calories; 8g Fat (27.1% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 42mg Cholesterol; 314mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates.
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