Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts, Ricotta, and Pomegranate Seeds

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Let’s backseat every other kind of homemade bread, the quintessential food gift, for just a moment to gaze at this fall and winter stunner. Judi’s Spiced Pumpkin Bread is the sort of edible gift I want to receive from my neighbor (hint hint) or an Eat Boutique colleague (hint hint hint). You bring the bread, I’ll bring the ricotta and we’ll have a lovely little get-together. -Maggie

The other day I spent way too much time on a cake – way, way too much time. By the time it was cooled, frosted, decorated and packed up for delivery (I’m still wondering if it came out all right!), I realized it was nine at night and my “dinner” had consisted of three carrot sticks, a spoonful of cake batter (quality control?) and a half-eaten rice cake with peanut butter. I was too tired to care.

I know this scenario all too well, and I’m sure some of you do, too. In the grand fashion of the holiday season, lately everything I make for others is complicated, intricate, and slightly delusional in scope… while the items relegated for myself (things like, you know, breakfast, lunch, and dinner) are sparse, simple, and grossly inelegant. To say the least.

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As I write this, the holiday season is only just beginning, and yet I have already glimpsed my future, harried self in the distance. But I’m going to do better for myself this year – this is my solemn vow. There has to be a way to feed people, generously and thoughtfully and in line with the spirit of the season, that doesn’t leave me feeling depleted and hollow and so very, very tired by season’s end. There has to be a way to give to others that feels like a gift to myself at the same time. There has to be a way or else I risk losing the joy that should be inherent in the act of giving.

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So here’s what I’m thinking are the keys to stress-free holiday gifting this year:

  1. Keep it simple, but add extra special touches.
  2. One for me and one for you. Double up and keep a casserole/pie/soup at home!
  3. Sit down and share. Invite friends over or grab a chair at their place, and enjoy the gift together.

This pumpkin bread is a quick, tasty and easy-to-make recipe … but is instantly turned into an elegant and seasonally festive dessert with a few extra touches. A dollop of ricotta and honey here, a crunch of spiced walnuts there, a scattering of shining pomegranate seeds everywhere. This year elegance and joy and festivity are on my wish list.

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Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Spiced Walnuts, Ricotta & Pomegranate Seeds

The other night, I cut a slice of pumpkin bread and it took a little detour to a frying pan and a bath of hot, sizzling butter. It’s something I see in Maine quite often. Who says no to, “do you want that bread grilled?” It’s an extra step, sure, but it adds depth and crunch and color to something wonderfully simple.

The Spiced Walnut recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse; it yields 4 cups of spiced nuts.

Makes: 2 loaves

Ingredients:

For the Bread
  • Unsalted butter, for the pans
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 16-ounce can solidly packed pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
For the Spiced Walnuts
  • 4 cups unsalted walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
For Serving
  • Ricotta
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Spiced walnuts (recipe below)
  • Honey (optional)

Directions:

For the Bread
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 2 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugar and oil to blend. Add eggs and pumpkin to sugar/oil and mix.
  3. In another large bowl, sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder.
  4. In 2 additions, stir flour into pumpkin mixture, until completely incorporated.
  5. Divide batter equally between prepared pans.
  6. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  7. Transfer loaves to racks and cool for 10 minutes. Use a sharp knife to cut around the edges, and turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.
  8. Serve topped with ricotta, pomegranate seeds, spiced walnuts and a drizzle of honey.
For the Spiced Nuts
  1. Heat the walnuts in a dry skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to toast, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the butter and cook, stirring, until the nuts begin to darken, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the spices, sugar, water, and salt and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and the nuts are glazed, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the nuts from the heat and transfer to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, separating them with a fork.
  5. Let the nuts stand until cooled and the sugar has hardened, about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
Photos taken and styled by Nicole Ziegler.

Eat Boutique was an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting retail markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie now supports entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses through We Are Magic StudioFollow Maggie Battista on Instagram.

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