Am I the only one who can't believe December has arrived? Where did the time go?? It seems like Labor Day weekend was only yesterday and yet here we are just 23 days from Christmas. For me, the best part of December is the baking! November is a fun cooking/baking month too but December, with all of its cookies, makes me even happier. I've been bookmarking recipes and stocking up on holiday baking magazines and, at this point, I think I have enough recipes on my "to-try" list to last me for the next 3 Decembers :)
Before I can move onto cookies, however, I have to share one more recipe from Thanksgiving. After seeing this bread on Bridget's blog, I decided to make a few loaves, intending to bring one to share at Thanksgiving and keep one here for myself. The bread is a gorgeous golden orange hue, dense yet tender and perfect, in my opinion, for the chilly winter months. I wasn't sure how the bread would be received but it was a big hit with my family. I've been enjoying the remnants of my loaf toasted with just a bit of butter for breakfast this week. Bridget made french toast with her bread and there's a recipe for pumpkin bread pudding on the King Arthur Flour site - the possibilities are endless! I skipped both the raisins and the candied ginger this time, but I think they'd be fabulous additions.
Ginger Pumpkin Braid
from King Arthur Flour (as seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles)
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup diced candied ginger (I omitted)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 3/4 cups pumpkin
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, spices, sugar, ginger, salt and yeast, mixing until everything is well-distributed. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the mixer, stirring until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on medium-low speed for 2 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading it for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. Add the raisins, if using, and continue kneading just until they're incorporated.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until it has doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface, divide it in half then divide each half into three equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a 10-inch rope.
Working with three ropes at a time, place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Braid them together, pinching the ends together well and tucking them under the loaf. Repeat with the remaining ropes. Set the braids aside, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour; they should look puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.
Bake the bread in a preheated 375 F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the braids from oven, and allow them to cool on a wire rack. Serve them warm or at room temperature.
Yields two 10-inch braids.