The Best Pumpkin Bread You’ll Ever Have

Remember what I said before about pumpkin being the kind of fall you could eat? Well, it’s still true—only, OK, listen: this hasn’t just been any fall.

This year in Chicago, fall’s gone above and beyond. Literally. Yesterday was the third day in a row where temps soared into the 70s. Yes, you read that right: 70s! In late October! While the trees are already ten shades of orange and red! I went somewhere last night and had to take my sweater off, that’s how warm I was. It’s the kind of thing people talk about wherever you go—church, the grocery store, chatting on the phone—as if, no matter what your feelings or indifference about this crazy gorgeous season that transitions from the long daylight of summer into the snow and frost of winter, one thing remains, at least this year, at least where I live: autumn’s got your attention.

loaf of the BEST pumpkin bread

I guess the same could be said of many things, from football to TV shows to the pleasure of reading a good book: the die-hard lovers will take the good and bad alike. They’ll cheer for their losing team. They’ll watch when no one else is. That’s like me and fall: rain or sun, cold or warm, thick and thin, I’m already sold. It’s many of us and pumpkin, especially this time of year, when we can have the pancakes and the muffins and the carving and the Jack O’ Lanterns. But just like it’s more fun to watch a winning team and just like some Octobers are easier to love than others, some pumpkin recipes are more impressive, more endearing, more oh-my-gosh good.

Like the best pumpkin bread you’ll ever have for example.

pumpkin squash bread

I am so excited about this pumpkin bread. To put it another way, if pumpkin is fall, this pumpkin bread is these last few days of October. It is weather warm enough to mean no jacket. It is driving home with the windows open. It is comfort and daylight and the best of summer with the best of the months after, where the lawns are covered with crunchy leaves and you just step outside and feel the sun on your face.

It doesn’t last long, despite yielding two loaves, but that’s only because it tastes so good and maybe because that’s how the best things go. And over the next few days, as the weather returns to low 40s (or lower! did someone say snow?), I’m going to hold onto the last few slices, savor them the way I do October, and enjoy every bite.

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it found me (white whole wheat pecan bread)

white whole wheat pecan bread

This bread came to me unassumingly, unexpectedly, on the back of a bag of flour—the very same bag of flour I gleaned through that crazy Sunday at Whole Foods you may remember. I wasn’t looking for a bread recipe; I wasn’t even really in the mood to bake but, maybe because of what we’d been through together, maybe because I am too impressionable, as soon as I saw this bag’s recipe, despite every bad loaf of bread I’ve made over the last few months, I started gathering ingredients.

It was like this bread found me.

white whole wheat pecan bread

It seems that in this life, there are things we pursue: people we want to be our friends, jobs we apply to have, opportunities we dream of and work for. Then there are things that pursue us or, sometimes, things that fall right into our laps, without our looking for them, without our knowing we could have wanted them at all. In my experience? These are some of the best things.

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the heart of things (sugar and spiced candy nuts)

sugar-and-spice nuts

Two days from Christmas, I can’t imagine any of you are still looking for gift ideas. You’re probably nothing like me, who not only hasn’t finished wrapping presents but also hasn’t finished buying them—not that there are many to buy because, whenever possible, I like to homemake Christmas gifts. This year has been as simple as free cards online, whipping up a batch of my favorite sweet and salty granola and baking some cookies, after which I mainly just had these sugar-and-spiced nuts to bake—two batches, because they’re that good, and, like I said, I know you don’t need gift ideas at this point, but if you ever do, trust me when I say these things make great ones.

You know, in the last post, I told you how sick I’ve been, how I spent the full weekend before Christmas at home, in bed, trying to distract myself from my stuffy nose, and that’s true. It’s also true that Monday night, I spent a half hour holding ice against my face while trying to end my first-ever bloody nose. What a week. I’ve been getting kind of sad about it all, thinking how un-Christmasy this end of December has been feeling, how little of the festive and jolly I’ve been experiencing (or how little I’ve been enjoying experiencing).

But then I think about homemade gifts.

After I’d mixed and baked the blend of walnuts and pecans with cayenne pepper and cinnamon and raw sugar and egg whites that go into this recipe, pulling their trays out of the oven and popping handfuls of the hot, fragrant candied nuts in my mouth, I cooled them and scooped them into jars tied with ribbons, labeled with gift cards made by Everybody Likes Sandwiches, which are perfectly shaped for sliding beneath the gold lids.

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