Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Spice Must Flow - Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Carrot Raisin Bread

So quiet.  Another Saturday adjacent to Courthouse Square, and the streets are blessedly silent, free from the maddening crowds of an average workday.  Well, perhaps with the notable exception of Clyde Avenue, masked as a local street, ha ha.

Clyde is actually a main thoroughfare linking the nearest fire station with the VFW Hall, double hairpin railroad crossings, lake access, and motorcycle club (there's got to be a motorcycle club, else where are they all coming from?) So sometimes the traffic is a bit crazy. Heavy enough to shake that side of my house and cause figurines to shift in the china cabinet and pictures to jump off the wall, breaking glass and my peace of mind.  Even on a Saturday.

 LIRR tracks running perpendicular to Ocean Parkway 

That just reminded me of something my grandmother told me about the Long Island Railroad train that used to run right alongside the building in which she lived in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.  Come to think of it, I lived there too, for a year or two, before we began our clandestine trek to the 'burbs.

I had never given much thought to this, being then 5 years old and not yet a train nut, but there were railroad tracks and a tunnel right where it needed to be to take the train under Ocean Parkway.  If I remember correctly, that tunnel was immediately adjacent to the parking garage which ran under the building. (My friend Mark might remember this better than me, being a fellow Midwoodite and train nut.) There was some kind of a pedestrian overpass (I'm pretty sure this is what I am thinking of, captured on film by Forgotten NY), and the building custodian used to build a snow igloo for us kids to play in, or a snowman with coal nugget eyes and a carrot nose (corny, but hey, it was the fifties). When the train, which ran on what was the old LIRR Bay Ridge line, rumbled past our building, my grandmother would have to straighten all the pictures on that side of the apartment.  I am pretty sure that by the time my brother and I had gone to live with my grandparents, that line had stopped running passenger trains, and even freight trains had become infrequent.

I don't remember when or why I became so enamored of trains and rail lines, but whenever that was, it has stuck with me for a lifetime.  Okay, that's enough about choo choos.  For now.

Since it is so nice and quiet on the weekend, Rob and I are pretty serious about firing up the grill and smoking some different meats, most notably a 3 pound hunk of Boar's Head bologna. We've had the smoked bologna at Thompson Brother's BBQ in Smyrna, Georgia any number of times and it is ridiculously delicious.  I've got hickory and apple wood waiting to be soaked in water, beer, or apple juice.  It's been a very long time since I attempted any kind of barbecue, but I used to be kinda good at it.

But right now, I'm focused on a pumpkin carrot raisin bread, using mini loaf tins.  First comes the spice mixture, which I have chosen to make up myself.  This is very different from commercial pumpkin pie spice, or from any of the online recipes.  Those mixtures rely heavily on cloves, which I love (but Robert doesn't), although it still reminds me of childhood trips to the dentist.  I substituted cardamom for the ground ginger, but I am thinking about adding some ginger paste to the actual batter.  There's orange peel in there, and a couple of spicy surprises, but since both pumpkin and carrot tend to be a bit bland, I think this will work.  As you can see, this is most definitely a work in progress.

You dune know how good it is till you try it

Sweet & Spicy Melange 

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons dried orange peel
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8  teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine in a small covered container and set aside.

Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Carrot Raisin Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons Sweet & Spicy Melange
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 extra large eggs
3 cups sugar
1-15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup raisins
optional: small amount of pepitas (shelled, roasted pumpkin seeds)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a very large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, spice mix, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar to combine.  Add the pumpkin, oil and water, whisking lightly after each addition.

Spray 5 mini loaf tins with baking no-stick spray (there is flour in it).  Place the tins on a baking sheet.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon, just to combine. Stir in the carrots and raisins.  Immediately divide the batter among the tins, top with some pepitas on each loaf, and slide into the preheated oven.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.  Halfway through, turn the baking sheet front to back.  Remove the finished tins to a cooling rack.  You can leave the breads in the tins until ready to slice and serve.

I have to tell you, these came out even better than expected.  The bread was moist but light, the spice was just right, the pumpkin and carrot were in perfect balance.

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