Easy pumpkin bread recipe made with pumpkin puree, dark brown sugar, sour cream, and little cornstarch. This well-tested combination ensures a moist and tender quick bread with the right amount of leavening agents to create a beautiful domed loaf.
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Baking up a loaf of pumpkin bread will instantly trigger holiday happiness. The mix of bold, gingery, and warm spices that perfume every nook and cranny of your home is worth the baking efforts. This recipe makes slices of bread bursting with caramel notes and pumpkin flavor, but without being overly sweet or greasy.
This recipe is inspired by a recent adventure to our local pumpkin patch. I purchased a loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread, but I noticed starch as one of the ingredients. Generally, for this type of bread, you don’t see that. That got me thinking.
Cornstarch is a common thickening agent that creates a gel-like texture when heated with water. I used this basic concept in hopes of seeing if the starch would help trap the moisture inside the bread while creating a tender, slightly springy texture. Guess what? It worked!
Pumpkin puree selection
For convenience, any store-bought canned pumpkin puree can be used for the recipe. I often gravitate towards Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin. It has a deep orange color and a lightly sweet flavor. You can also make homemade pumpkin puree by roasting pie pumpkins. Don’t forget to save the seeds to make crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds.
Just make sure to avoid anything labeled as pumpkin pie filling, as it already contains sweeteners and spices. This variety is typically used as a quick mix for pumpkin pie.
Enhance the flavor
Pumpkin puree on its own can taste rather underwhelming. One way to boost the naturally sweet and pulpy flavor is to add bold, warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice.
I recommend making a batch of my homemade pumpkin pie spice blend and adding 2 ½ teaspoons to the pumpkin mixture, or store-bought works as well to save you some time for future recipes. I also add some sour cream to provide tartness that balances the sugary taste. The acids in the fermented cream also act as a flavor enhancer to the spices.
Create a moist bread texture
To make a pumpkin bread recipe that still tastes fantastic days after the first slice, a little bit of cornstarch does the trick. Not only does it help keep the bread from getting dry and crumbly, but the starches also reduce the amount of gluten-formation because it competes with the wheat flour for water. The result is soft slices of spiced bread loaded with pumpkin flavor.
You’ll notice that straight from the oven, the edges and crust are a bit crispy from the granulated sugar. Over time as the bread picks up moisture from its environment, it becomes even more moist, just like what you typically taste in bakeries and grocery stores.
How to make pumpkin bread
To prevent the bread from sticking to the pan, grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or vegetable oil. Mix the dried ingredients in a large bowl; this helps evenly distribute the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. To emulsify the wet ingredients together properly, whisk the eggs and sugar together, then add the vegetable oil until smooth.
Add the pumpkin puree, milk, sour cream, and vanilla. To prevent dense bread, gently fold the wet and dry ingredients until the flour is hydrated. Pour into the prepared pan, then bake at 350ºF (176ºC) in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Storing and freezing
The pumpkin bread will taste delicious for 4 to 5 days at room temperature. Make sure to store it in an airtight container or enclosed in a resealable plastic bag. The loaves make excellent presents for the holidays or a potluck. You could even divide the batter into smaller loaves for gifts.
The bread can also be sliced and then individually covered in plastic wrap, then stored in a plastic bag in the freezer for about one month. Reheat by wrapping each slice in a paper towel, then microwave on medium power for about 90 seconds (about 1 minute for high power).
Tasty ways to modify
- Make it sweeter by mixing in ½ to ⅔ cups of chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark) or mini chips.
- Add in ⅔ cups of dried cranberries or 1 cup of fresh or frozen and defrosted cranberries.
- Sprinkle pumpkin seeds or chopped nuts on top.
- Add a streusel topping.
Can you make pumpkin muffins?
Yes! Smaller individually sized pumpkin muffins can be made using this pumpkin bread recipe. The pumpkin muffins will bake in about half the time because the smaller potions cook quicker.
More pumpkin favorites
The surface should be dry, the bread will spring back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center has no crumbs attached. Use an instant-read thermometer to test the middle of the loaf. The internal temperature should be between 195 to 200ºF (90 to 93ºC).
Over-mixing could cause the gluten in the flour to create a tight protein network, resulting in a chewier bread texture. Make sure that the flour is hydrated with a few pockets of flour remaining. It’s also essential to add the correct ratio of pumpkin puree to the wet and dry ingredients. If there are not enough starches to absorb the moisture, the bread will taste dense and gummy.
Make sure to let the bread cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. It’s also essential to mix the bread enough so that some gluten formation occurs to build structure, but not so much that it becomes chewy.
Brown sugar and cornstarch help with moisture
Humectants like brown sugar attract moisture from their environment. Adding some to the bread not only provides a rich caramel flavor but also keeps the bread moist over time. Cornstarch helps the tenderness by reducing gluten formation and creating a gel-like structure in the bread, further locking in moisture.
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- 1 ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- ¼ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Heat Oven: Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 350ºF (176ºC).
- Prepare Pan – Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or vegetable oil.
- Mix Dry Ingredients – In a large bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice together. Thoroughly mix with a whisk until combined.
- Mix Wet Ingredients – In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until smooth and pale yellow in color, 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the vegetable oil into the egg mixture until completely mixed, about 30 seconds. Whisk in pumpkin, whole milk, sour cream, and vanilla extract into the egg mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Make Batter – Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Gently fold the flour mixture until just moistened, making sure to scrape the bottom, with some lumps and flour spots remaining. Do not over-mix the batter.
- Bake – Pour batter into greased pan and smooth top with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or the internal temperature reaches 195 to 200ºF (90 to 93ºC), about 50 to 60 minutes. If needed, cover the bread loosely with foil about 45 minutes into cooking to prevent the top from getting too brown.
- Cool – Cool the bread in a pan for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife or small spatula around the sides of the pan, remove the pumpkin bread and transfer it to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.
- Spices Substitute: Use 2 ½ teaspoons of store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie spice.
- Storing: Store at room temperature for 4 to 5 days when tightly sealed in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
- Freezing: Slices can be individually wrapped in plastic and stored in a bag in the freezer for up to 1 month. Reheat by wrapping in a paper towel and microwave on medium power for 60 to 90 seconds.
- Make it Dairy-Free: Use unsweetened cashew or almond milk instead of cow’s milk. Use dairy-free sour cream or dairy-free yogurt.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free flour instead of wheat flour. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 baking flour.
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