Gluten-Free Pumpkin Loaf

The first thing I thought when I realized my oral allergy syndrome had developed into a wheat sensitivity was “well, shit, there goes my Starbucks pumpkin loaf.” A tall café mocha with a slice of pumpkin loaf had been my I’ve-had-a-terrible-day standby for years; I’m pretty sure it’s how I survived graduate school.

That began my foray into gluten-free baking, a wild and terrifying universe (at least to me). I started hunting up and down for a gluten-free pumpkin bread recipe, except they were all advertised with things like vegan! dairy and egg free! naturally sweetened!

Uhm, how about fuck no.

That’s when I started trying to figure out substitution on my own. It’s a fine and delicate balance, figuring out how to cook without wheat flour. And I figured I’d have to start out with the best recipe ever: America’s Test Kitchen Pumpkin Bread.

I’ve tweaked it to be gluten-free-friendly and threw in more spices because Autumn Should Goddamn Explode in My Mouth when I eat pumpkin anything in the fall.

Firstly we need to condense down the canned pumpkin a bit with the salt and spices. I’ve used a heavy-bottom saucepan here, and when ATK says stir constantly they definitely mean it. I thought I’d be able to leave it and attend to the next two steps but nope. Stir that spiced pumpkin until your arm is in flames. Upside: it smells incredible.

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Next is adding the sugar. Two glorious cups of sugar. Also, they specified “packed brown sugar,” and I wondered, is there anyone on this planet that doesn’t pack their brown sugar?

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At this point you add the butter and cream cheese, and when they say cut the 4 oz of cream cheese into 12 pieces … they meant it. I thought “12 pieces, really? That seems a little anal. I’ll do 8.”

No.

Do 12.

I didn’t do 12 because it seemed too hard to try to cut half a block of cream cheese into 12 little pieces, but in retrospect I should have cut into into quarters lengthwise and then thirds, not in half. Also, a note on cream cheese: there is no such goddamn thing as cream cheese at my grocery store that doesn’t have carageenan or guar gum in it. Not one. Assholes. I’m hoping that it’s such a small amount I won’t be able to tell. But if this makes my stomach upset I’m gonna kick somebody.

Anyway, if you don’t use 12 pieces, it doesn’t really melt, and you’re left with tiny little lumps of cream cheese. I tried heating it up again, and it only helped a little. Maybe tiny little pieces won’t hurt it?

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That was before my attempt at heating it up.

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This was my cooking environment– I was trying to get a picture of my kitchen scale, which is important to gluten-free baking and I love this one because the screen pulls away so I can set large mixing bowels on it– and realized that my Siberian cat sleeping on my table was fucking adorable. Her name is Elsa, by the way. Yes, I got her the first time I saw Frozen, but she’s also named after the villain from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, so sue me.

This was the tricky part of this experiment, because finding the right ratio of flour can be time-consuming. Watching this video taught me that a properly-measured cup of flour weighs 4 ¼ ounces, but the one thing I’ve learned about gluten-free cooking is use less flour, which is annoying because gluten-free flour mixes weigh more. In a few of the things I’ve made I’ve just substituted 4 oz for each cup of flour needed and it’s worked out, but the ATK recipe said “2 cups (10 oz) flour” and I was like what the–, so I did some finagling.

After I mixed up the wet ingredients I measured it until I had 1,000 mg (see the Pyrex measuring bowel in the background? Godsend, that thing) and split it in half. There was a little bit left in the pan, but eh, whatever. Then I used 4 oz of gluten-free flour mix in one half, and 5 oz in the other. We’ll see when they’re done which is better.

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This is what the 5 oz-of-flour version looked like. It was pretty thick, but it baked up in the 40 minutes allotted just fine.

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Hmm, still pretty thick.

One of the things you need to know about gluten-free cooking is that it’s mostly about giving the flour mix time and space, and to be gentle with it. Give it a few minutes to relax (ie: absorb moisture), otherwise it’s going to be irritable (ie: grainy). I let each batch sit for about 3 minutes.

Quick tip about using chocolate chips in these kinds of bread-cake-thingies: don’t mix the chips in with the batter. I pour the batter into the pan, then sprinkle the chips on top, like so:

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and then use a spatula or spoon or whatever comes to hand to sort of mix-and-push the chips into the batter a bit. That way, they don’t all immediately sink to the bottom while it bakes.

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As you can see, there’s a bit of a difference in these two. The one on the right: 5 oz of flour. On the left: 4 oz. After a taste test both are goddamn delicious, but have different textures. The 4-oz version is wonderfully moist (baking it just a tad longer wouldn’t have hurt it), and the 5-oz version absorbed more of the moisture so the edges are just the right amount of crisp and is a little more chewy– so, it just depends on what you’d like. I liked both, but sent the 4-oz version to work with Handsome, my partner, so ATK wins again.

Gluten-Free Spiced Pumpkin Loaf with Chocolate Chips

Dry:
8 or 10 oz. gluten-free flour mix (8 oz for supremely moist, 10 oz for chewy)
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Wet:
15 oz (1 can) pumpkin
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter (gluten-free gets along better with butter, not vegetable oils)
4 oz (half package) cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
4 eggs
¼ very full cup buttermilk
1 cup chocolate chips (I use Equal Exchange)

Method:

  • Preheat to 350°, using an oven thermometer (gluten-free baking is temperamental).
  • Mix up the flour with the baking soda and powder, set aside.
  • Put pumpkin, salt, and spices into a saucepan, cook on medium heat 8 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add sugar.
  • Add butter and cream cheese, let stand a few minutes (about 5), then stir to combine.
  • Whisk buttermilk and eggs together, add to the pumpkin mixture.
  • Measure out 1,000 mg of pumpkin mixture into medium-size bowl.
  • Add flour mix.
  • Let stand 3 minutes.
  • Divide into two well-buttered loaf pans (quick tip: chill your pans to get more butter coating).
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips, push them slightly below the surface of the batter.
  • Bake 40 minutes in the 9 inch, 45 in an 8 inch, or until knife comes out clean.