We’ve reached that beautiful time of year when thoughts turn from October treats to November feasts — turkeys brining, potatoes mashing, and cranberries, um… saucing. And let’s not forget the Great Pumpkin, both the watchable (Charlie Brown!) and edible versions. Pumpkin is a flavor that straddles the divide between these two wondrous months.
Everyone’s favorite squash cousin serves as both a creepy decoration for Halloween and a delectable side dish for Thanksgiving, in the form of pumpkin pie. Since millions of pumpkin pies will undoubtedly dot the Turkey Day landscape across the country next week, we wanted to mix things up. Rather than mess with an all-time classic dish, we decided to change the medium altogether, while still keeping the seasonal flavor. Thus, this week’s masterpiece: Pumpkin Bread French Toast.
Is it possible we got the idea for this while watching the above-mentioned Halloween special? Yes. Does it make the end result less appropriate for Thanksgiving? On such questions, we tend to follow the rule of deliciousness: if it tastes great, who cares?
Really though, we happened on the idea while checking out the Pennies on a Platter blog and their sweet recipe for pumpkin bread (and subsequent recipe for French toast). The recipes initially gave us a sterling idea for a Thanksgiving-inspired brunch, complete with vodka-infused cranberry sauce and a savory Turkey frittatta. What happened? Well, let’s just say we got a little cranberry sauced on the way…
We found that the key to a successful version of the near-finished toast you see above was, as shown in the Pennies on a Platter recipe, all in the bread. Sure, you can cheat a bit and use a pumpkin-y store-bought loaf. However, we couldn’t resist the allure of a pumpkin-scented kitchen, so we rolled up our sleeves and made it ourselves.
The bread is surprisingly simple to make, so we won’t go too far into it here. Save for some mixing and baking, the text of the Pennies on a Platter recipe is below:
Yielded two 6 x 2.5″ loaves. We used the heat-safe paper loaf pans from our website, #23153.
3 cups sugar
1 cup cooking oil
3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup water
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
Preheat oven to 350˚F
Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of the loaf pans you are using, then set aside. You can use two 9x5x3-inch, three 8x4x2-inch, or four 7 1/2x 3 1/2×2-inch loaf pans.
In a very large mixing bowl, beat sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and beat well; set aside.
In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Alternately, add flour mixture and water to sugar mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Spoon batter into prepared pans.
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. (If you’re baking only one loaf, this time reduces significantly, so it is important to keep an eye on it.) Cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.
Bake for 25 minutes at 350˚F when making 8 mini loaves, or until the loaves pass the toothpick test.
French toast was originally invented as a way to bring stale bread back to life, and a sweet life at that. However, many modern recipes aren’t as rigid with their bread specifics. We found that the trick is finding a good balance between bread that is too stale and bread fresh out of the oven. Very stale bread, no matter how much egg mixture it soaks up, still tastes old. On the flip side, bread that is too fresh will be too spongy and won’t produce that trademark texture we all know and love with French toast: eggy, savory crust with a pillowy, bready interior. With that in mind, we baked our pumpkin bread on Tuesday and let it cool that night for brunch on Saturday morning. Those few days let it lose some moisture, which was quickly regained in the pan during frying.
A neat new trick that we found with this recipe was to move the fried French toast to a 400°F oven for about 15 minutes. This reinforces the airy texture of the inner bread, making a great contrast to the crust.
Pumpkin Bread French Toast
Yields 8 thick slices
1 loaf pumpkin bread, at least a day old
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
In a wide large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice and salt; set aside.
Slice the pumpkin loaf into 8 thick slices, not counting the end pieces (crust).
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Meanwhile, dip each slice of bread in the egg batter. Let the bread soak up the custard. Transfer to the heated skillet and brown for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.
Place the browned pieces of bread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with maple syrup or choice of toppings.
While we initially opted for the whipped cream route, these also went swimmingly slathered in apple butter. Try it yourself, and bon appetit!