Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lori's Pumpkin Bread

 Years ago, Bob and I were neighbors with a couple whom we sometimes played cards with and whose wife I often hung out with during the day as we both had young children at the time. One night we'd gone next door to play cards while the children slept (we were close by and in a very small town), and this friend pulled out a loaf of this bread and I could not stop eating it. It was so delicious! I am usually not a big pumpkin fan, but the spicy warmness of this bread was enticing. I asked her for the recipe and I've made it ever since, which is close to 30 years.
I usually make this in the fall, but this is one of those quick breads that makes up nicely most anytime of year. I prefer it in cooler months, such as fall, winter, and spring. But I will eat it in summer as well. It is a really good recipe that will make you a believer in pumpkin, too.

Lori's Pumpkin Bread
Makes two loaves
                          Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2/3 cup shortening*
2 2/3 cup sugar*
4 eggs*
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin*
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder*
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsps ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)
2/3 cup raisins (optional)

In large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar till light and fluffy. Stir in eggs, pumpkin and water; blend till well mixed.
In another bowl, combine flour, soda, baking powder, cloves and cinnamon.
Blend dry ingredients gradually into the creamed mixture; blend well.
Fold in raisins and nuts, if used.
Pour evenly into two well-greased 9"x 5"x 2" pans. Level tops.
Bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes or till toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks to cool completely.
When completely cool, wrap well and let sit overnight before cutting and serving, or freeze up to 2 months. Makes 2 loaves.

*I use palm oil shortening, or you could use lard or tallow.
*You could substitute Rapadura or Succanat for the sugar.
*We use farm fresh eggs.
*Make sure your baking powder does not contain aluminum. I use Rumsford.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Aunt Martha DiPietro's Easter Bread


Italian Easter Bread

I do not know who Aunt Martha is, but I do know she was a relative of Bob's grandpa Di Pietro, most likely his dad's sister. All I know is that my mother-in-law used to make this every year for Easter. She is now celiac, really doesn't have anyone to cook or bake for anymore, so she rarely makes this or many other foods anymore.
This may seem time-consuming, but in reality, it just seems so as there is a long rest time. What is nice is you can make it up the night before and then form, raise, and bake the next day. This sounds like a lot of work, but it isn't as so much of it is raising time.
I don't allow it to raise for the 6 hours in the beginning because that is excessive. If a dough raises too much it will fall and be ruined.
I imagine you could change the extracts and use lemon or orange or even butter rum, whatever you'd prefer, but for Italians, anise is the oil of choice.
I will give this recipe as given, but in brackets you will see how I made this.
If you don't like anise, you could substitute lemon extract instead. This makes good toast slathered with lots of fresh butter.

Aunt Martha Di Pietro's Easter Bread

1 medium potato
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1-2 oz block yeast (I used 4 tsp dry yeast)
*2 eggs
*1/2 handful salt (I used about 1 1/2 tsp Real Sea Salt)
*1 cup oil (I used 1 cup olive oil)
*1 1/2 cups sugar
*1/2 box raisins (I used about 6-8 oz, as I buy in bulk, so I used 1/2 lb, about)
*2- 1 oz bottles anise extract (the anise oil would be stronger, if you like it)
9 beaten eggs
6 cups unbleached flour ( I used an additional 4-6 cups flour)
1 egg
a bit of milk

Peel and chop potatoes and cook till tender. Run through a ricer. (I just mashed the potatoes) and add enough water to make a pint (2 cups). When cool (to around 110-115 degrees), add yeast, 2 eggs, and 1 1/4 cups flour. Let raise 6 hours (I only let raise about 30-45 minutes).
Combine oil, sugar, anise and raisins in a pan. Heat to lukewarm.
Beat the 9 eggs together and add to cooled oil mixture (I added eggs and oil mixture to the original raised yeast mixture). Add salt.
Beat two minutes. (you can use electric mixer or by hand~I did by hand)
Add 6 cups flour gradually to mixture; beat additional 2 minutes on low. (I beat by hand with a spoon, and I added more like another 4-6 cups flour as it was way too wet to knead!)
Knead 8-10 minutes, till elastic and smooth.
Raise overnight (I did in garage, which is cool and keeps it from raising too fast and falling).
Punch dough down, divide into 5 equal parts (I used a kitchen scale and weighed them out into 5 equal parts) and form into loaves, cover with a towel, and place in greased loaf pans.You can roll out into a rectangle and make traditional looking loaves, or you can divide dough into thirds and make into braids.
Use 8" x 4" or 9" x 5" loaf pans.
Raise 1 1/2 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
Take egg and some milk and combine together to make an egg wash. Brush tops of bread before putting in oven. About halfway through, brush again. Will give a shiny look.
Original recipe just says to brush with an egg yolk, but I prefer to use the egg/milk wash.

*I always use eggs from a farm.
*I used Redmond's Real Sea Salt.
*My mother-in-law used vegetable oil, but I use olive oil in all my baking where oil is called for.
*I used cane sugar, but Succanat or Rapadura could be used.
*Bob said it needed more raisins, though I used what the recipe called for. Don't be afraid to use 12-
  16 oz of raisins.