Friday, December 27, 2013

What to Bring to Holiday Gatherings? Pull-Apart Pumpkin Bread!

Several weeks back we were standing in our kitchen, enjoying a glass of eggnog, and discussing the upcoming holiday travel season.  "What should we make for all these family gatherings?" we asked ourselves, since 'gathering' and 'potluck' are nearly synonymous in the Midwestern dialect.  Katie showed off her googling skills and came up with a recipe for Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread with Buttered Rum Glaze.  The recipe is amazing, but the name is quite a mouthful, so we've started calling it just 'that pull-apart pumpkin bread.'

Another feature of our family gatherings is that the food is always fresh, which means that the kitchens of all of our relatives are always occupied in the days leading up to the event...which puts anyone traveling across the country to be there at a certain disadvantage for making a fresh dish themselves.  Katie hypothesized that it would be easier to find oven time than whole-kitchen time, so she devised a plan to make up the dough ahead of time, freeze it for the cross-country trip, then let it thaw in the fridge overnight upon reaching our destination, and bake it early in the morning right before everyone woke up. (...woke up to the smell of fresh pumpkin bread, that is!)  We've had mixed success with that approach since our yeast doughs that have been frozen or refrigerated for extended periods often don't rise quite right, or at least do so quite slowly, which makes the time needed difficult to predict.  But, we're happy to report that this recipe appears to be amenable to the extended freezing/refrigerating regimen we put it through!  Here's what we did:

First, we browned the 2 Tablespoons butter, added milk, and let it cool to ~115 °F.  Then we added the yeast and 0.25 cups sugar, and let it proof until it looked bubbly on top like this.
While it was proofing, we measured out the pumpkin, salt, and 1 cup flour.  Hey, look!  We've got two different kinds of pumpkin in there!  One must be from a can and the other from a real pumpkin.  We've found this recipe is a good way to use up pumpkin left over from making pumpkin-flavored eggnog or pumpkin/squash butter.
We mixed in the pumpkin, salt and first cup of flour, then added the rest of the flour bit by bit while kneading in the mixer, then let it knead for another six minutes.  The texture is like a really soft bread dough.
Then we let it rise for an hour or so...
...formed it into loaves, and put it in the freezer for a few days.
When we got home for the holidays, we thawed the dough in the fridge, then tore off and golf ball-sized chunks and smooshed them flat before coating them in the butter-cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg mixture.  Then they got stuffed into a greased bread pan like the photo shows.  Any sugar mixture left over after patting as much as possible into the rolled-out dough got sprinkled on top.
We let it rise in the oven until the top of the loaf was just at the top of the pan, then started baking it.  The first time, we learned the hard way that it's better to put a pan underneath to catch any drippings, otherwise the baking stage doubles as a smoke alarm test.
When it was done baking, we added the last mix of butter and sugar, this one accompanied with milk and rum.  We have yet to see one of these loaves survive for more than six hours out of the oven.  In fact, our families are more often like pumpkin bread piranhas--when provoked, they can skeletonize a loaf pan in under two minutes!

For the detailed recipe amounts and other instructions, check out the original posting on SunnySideUp.

What do you bring to your holiday gatherings/potlucks?  Let us know in the comments section below!

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