Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Black Tea Pumpkin Bread

My favorite black tea is Assam. It’s rich, with a dark earthy flavor that begs to stand alongside squash and warm spices. I’ve started using it instead of buttermilk or soymilk in my pumpkin bread to cut out dairy and soy. It enhances the pumpkin’s flavor without requiring center stage, the way bananas strut their big overripe muscles.

As I tested this recipe a final time, my husband announced he wanted pho—that deliciously simple Vietnamese soup whose broth brightens any grey Seattle day. I mixed the dry ingredients, set them aside, and out we ventured for lunch. We’re in the middle of packing for our move to Ballard, so this was a very welcome break from our box-filled weekend. I could finish my black tea pumpkin bread when we returned.

It’s best to avoid interruption while baking. You might leave out an ingredient—such as brown sugar.

I left out the brown sugar.

I whipped the batter from the oven, staring at it a moment in dismay. Then I shrugged, poured maple syrup over it, and baked it anyway.

It’s best not to take baking too seriously. Life's kitchen will throw you enough moths in the flour, mildewy undersinks, and rotting green onions at the back of the fridge; a single neglected ingredient is an adventure. If I’d thrown out the batter and started over, I never would have discovered this recipe works without sugar as well as it does with sugar. The flavor is different, of course, but delicious in its own way. Salt wanders the taste buds, bringing out the natural sweetness of pumpkin alongside a delicate maple crust. It’s a perfect option if you’re cutting back on sugar. Or if you get distracted mid-production when you really ought to have been packing pans in the first place, not making more of them dirty.

This recipe works with either pumpkin or sweet potato puree.

Black Tea Pumpkin Bread
Makes 1 loaf

160g (1 1/4 cup) sorghum or brown rice flour
125g (1 cup) sweet rice flour
40g (1/4 cup) tapioca starch
2 tsp baking soda
200g (1 cup) brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
50g (1/2 cup) ground pecans or walnuts
25g (3 Tbls) ground flax seeds
Pecan or walnut pieces, optional
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 can (7.5oz) pumpkin or sweet potato puree
1/2 cup black Assam tea
1 Tbls molasses
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and sweet rice flour a 9-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

To make black tea, bring 3/4 - 1 cup water to boil. As soon as it boils, remove it from heat, add 2 tsp loose leaf black Assam tea and cover. Let steep for 3 minutes, 30 seconds. Uncover and strain into a cup or bowl to cool while you mix the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine flours, starch, baking soda, sugar, salt, spices, ground nuts, and flax seeds. Mix well so all clumping is broken up. In a separate bowl, beat eggs into oil, pumpkin puree, tea, molasses, vinegar, and lemon juice.

Pour wet ingredients into dry, mixing quickly but thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, smooth top with back of spoon, and bake 45-60 minutes. Bread is done when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and top of loaf is well-browned. Let cool at least 5 minutes in the pan before removing and cutting. Store wrapped in plastic and/or aluminum foil in fridge up to 1 week.

Sugar-free variation: Make bread as directed, leaving out the brown sugar. Before baking, drizzle 1/4 cup maple syrup over top of batter. Bake 35-45 minutes.