November 28, 2005
A few of you have asked for the recipe for the pumpkin challah that I baked at Thanksgiving. It's from A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking from Around the World, a terrific cookbook by Maggie Glazer, which I recommend highly -- the directions are clear and usable, the photographs are beautiful, and the recipes range from flatbreads to challahs to everything in between.
Glazer tells us that this is a Sephardic Rosh Hashanah recipe, and that the pumpkin in the recipe has symbolic meaning. This bread is an embodied prayer that in the coming year God will protect us, just as the pumpkin's hard shell protects its insides.
One way or another, I think it's entered our regular Thanksgiving roster -- it's an easy bread to make (and, unlike my usual challah recipe, is non-dairy) and I love the gentle pumpkin flavor and the challah's pretty orange crumb. B'teavon -- enjoy!
Pan de Calabaza (Sephardic Pumpkin Challah)
1 small pie pumpkin (halved and baked, then mashed) or 1 sweet potato (baked, then mashed), or 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree [I used canned pumpkin; next time I'll try 3/4 cup because I'd like the flavor to be stronger]
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 and 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, beaten
Optional sesame seeds; optional extra egg to brush loaves with
Mix the yeast in the warm water along with the spices and 2/3 cups flour. Let the mixture stand for 10-20 minutes, until it starts to foam a little. Whisk the sugar, salt, oil, egg, and pumpkin into the dough. Stir in the remaining flour, then knead for at 5-10 minutes. Dough should be firm, easy to knead, and neither dry nor sticky.
Let the dough rest while you wash and dry your bread bowl. Oil the bowl lightly, put the dough in it, cover the bowl with saran wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until the dough has tripled (2-3 hours). Punch it down and shape as you wish [I opted for two braids, which requires halving the dough and then cutting each half into thirds, rolling those thirds into ropes of dough, and braiding the ropes.] Oil baking sheets or sprinkle them with cornmeal; let the loaves rise until at least doubled in size (ideally tripled, if you have time), probably 1.5 hours.
Optional: you can glaze the loaves with beaten egg if you want, and/or sprinkle them with sesame seeds. Bake the loaves at 350 (F) for 40-45 minutes.