A few times a month my husband goes paintballing, and though we have a number of things in common – a love of SciFi, an interest in cooking, among other things – paintballing is not one of them. He tried to get me into it, offering to buy me my very own Tippmann A5 paintball marker and a camouflage outfit. He sat next to me at the computer and showed me all the different camo patterns, exclaiming: “It’ll be such a good experience for you baby. You’ll be a warrior baking babe!” After a few weeks of this I caved, renting camouflage and a marker for the day then braving the wilds of upstate New York. I played for about five hours and I admit, there’s a certain allure to the adrenaline rush that comes with running like a bat out of hell, terrified that the next popping sound you hear will shortly be followed by the impact of a high velocity paintball smacking your bum. But ultimately, it wasn’t for me. I’d rather stay home and bake.
That’s what I did today, starting a batch of dough while my husband was assembling his various paintball markers (yes, he has more than one) and donning his battle gear. As he got in the car and drove off I waved goodbye, then made myself a honey-vanilla latte, put Oreo on the treadmill and watched the Sex and the City movie. Much more appealing start to the day if you ask me.
The result of this morning’s baking was the loaf of yeasted chocolate-chip pumpkin bread you see here. I’ve been working on the recipe for a couple weeks now, experimenting with bread flour vs. all-purpose, vegetable oil vs. butter, this spice vs. that, conducting all manner of trials in my kitchen until I arrived at the recipe below. I love the traditional pumpkin ‘quick’ bread but I wanted to create a lighter alternative to those dense, heavily spiced loaves. This yeasted version is sweetened with light brown sugar and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. When I first created the recipe I was adding cranberries and pecans to the bread, but eventually I decided semi-sweet chocolate chips were the way to go. It was a spur of the moment modification, but let me tell you, chocolate and pumpkin make a sweet pair. You should feel free to modify the amount of chocolate in the recipe according to your taste – the more you add (up to 3/4 cup) the sweeter each bite of bread will be! Use the best quality chocolate you can find. :)
- 4 to 4½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 heaping tablespoon active dry yeast
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup low-fat milk, warm
- ¼ cup melted butter (warm, not hot)
- 1 large egg, plus one more for the glaze
- ½ to ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, according to taste
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine the warm milk, the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the flour. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin puree, spices, light brown sugar, salt, egg, and melted butter. Mix until combined. Add the flour ½ cup at a time, mixing well between additions. After you have added 2 cups of flour, add the chocolate chips, then continue with the rest of the flour. When the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl switch to your dough hook, or a wooden spoon if making bread by hand.
- If using a stand mixer, knead the dough for 4 minutes, adding extra flour 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed – just enough to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl. If making the bread by hand, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4-5 minutes, sprinkling with flour as needed to prevent sticking. *Note: Although I generally use my stand mixer to knead my dough, I always turn it out onto a floured surface and finish the kneading by hand, for the last minute or so. It’s the best way to know when the dough has been kneaded enough. The dough is done when it’s smooth and bounces back when you press your thumb into it.
- Place the dough in a deep container greased with 1 tsp of olive oil. Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1½ to 2 hours.
- Spray a spring-form cake pan with baking spray (such as Pam) and lightly flour. Sprinkle the flour on the bottom and along the sides, then invert the pan and tap out any excess flour.
- Divide the dough into 3 equal portions, and roll each portion out into a smooth, thick strip about 15 inches long, with the ends slightly thinner than the middle. Be gentle with the dough or you’ll tear it, which wouldn’t affect the final flavor but would influence the way the finished loaf looks.
- Lay the ropes side-by-side, not quite touching. Beginning in the middle and working towards you, braid the lower half of the three ropes. To braid, alternately move the outside ropes over the one in the center – left over, right over, left over – until you come to the end. Now go to the other side of your working space and braid the other half, this time moving the outside ropes under the center one. Braid tightly – you don’t want any gaps. When you finish braiding each side crimp the tapered ends together, then tuck them under. Twist the braid around itself, pinwheel fashion, gently pressing the outside end against the larger body of dough. Transfer to your prepared pan.
- Whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of olive oil, this is going to be the glaze for your bread. Gently brush the dough with it. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- About 30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Brush the dough with the egg mixture again. The dough will have stretched during rising, so be sure to get any spots that don’t have glaze on them.
- Place the pan on a rack in the center of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until browned and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingers. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer the bread to a cooling rack. Allow to cool at least 20 more minutes before slicing.