12 October 2013

I WILL Have Pumpkin!

It's autumn, and while the States are being bombarded with all things pumpkin, such deliciousness is lacking in Europe. When your "usual" seasonal foods aren't easily accomplished, it really reminds you that you are an expat. So to make things a little more pumpkiny (and American "normal) for fall I've had to get a little more creative.

Pumpkins are grown here and used for some foods - but there is nothing that approaches the pumpkin production or craze of the States. Rather than coming processed and packed into cans, pumpkins are sold whole and need to be prepared for cooking - which I have no idea how you would go about doing that, and frankly, it seems like more work than I want to be involved in.

While cans of pumpkin aren't to be found anywhere, I did figure our last fall that I can purchase frozen pumpkin chunks from the Albert Heijn supermarket, and I've been able to work with that to make some delicious baked goods, the most recent of which included a pumpkin bread that I made using a recipe from the classic American cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (one of the few books I brought with us in our move).

I do make my own tweaks to the recipe based on my personal taste (and since I'm using slightly different ingredients), so if you find yourself in the Netherlands (or another county with frozen pumpkin available), you can make your own pumpkin bread and hoard it for yourself share it with your family and friends.

Pumpkin Bread à la Ace

Make sure you have all of your ingredients. Dutch names are included in italics for your shopping ease:
  • 3.5 cups all purpose flour (patent tarwebloem)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda/sodium bicarbonate
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt (zout)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (kaneel)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (nootmuskaat)
  • 1 package (450 grams) frozen pumpkin (pompoen)
  • 3 cups white sugar (suiker) - (you can substitute as 2 cups white sugar and 1 cup brown sugar for different flavor)
  • 1 cup cooking oil (olie) - I prefer sunflower seed oil (zonnebloemolie)
  • 4 eggs (eieren)
  • Optional: 200 grams/16 ounces chocolate chips/chunks OR 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • NOTE: The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup water added to the mix - I find this makes the batter way too watery and takes much longer to cook. But depending on your oven and other cooking conditions I don't understand, you may find that you want to add water to your mix. 

If you have a "proper" oven - preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit/175 degrees Celcius. If you have a convection oven, you'll need to use the microwave option first.

Cook the pumpkin. Starting to prepare the pumpkin is as simple as microwaving it with a tablespoon or two of water in a microwave-safe dish with a cover. Since it comes frozen, I've let it thaw in the fridge for a day or so and microwave it for 3.5 minutes after it has thawed. I would guess 4.5 minutes if you start with frozen pumpkin. The package of pumpkin that I buy is 450 grams - and as far as I can figure with some "loose math" this is about the same as a 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree bought in the States, but with the "feel" good knowledge that there are no preservatives.

Frozen pumpkin, purchased in the
Albert Heijn frozen section

Make up the dry mix. While the pumpkin in cooking, combine the flour, baking soda/sodium bicarbonate, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl.

Mash the crap out of the pumpkin. Once the pumpkin is done cooking, mash it up or puree it. This could be done with a blender or mixer, but I'm too cheap to buy either, so I just give it a bit of elbow grease with a potato masher. This is actually pretty cathartic if you're having a bad day, or a fun activity for Little Man (though I get the mashing started for him). Try to get the mix as smooth as possible (think mashed potato-smooth).

Mix the sugar and the oil. In a large bowl, start the wet mix by combining sugar and oil. Again, this can be done with a mixer on medium speed, but as I like to tell myself that I'm building character and muscle, I do it with a whisk by hand as fast as I can manage.

From left to right: Little Man mashing pumpkin, sugar and oil mix, dry mix

Add all four eggs to the wet mix. In our case, we ended up with 4.25 medium eggs due to a mis-timed cracking. It still worked out. Using the medium speed on your mixer or full speed with your arm, whisk the eggs into the wet mix.


Add the pumpkin mashing to the wet mix. Whisk in with medium mixer speed or full arm speed.

Gradually add the dry mix to the wet mix. This is where cooking feels like a work out if you use a hand whisk. Add the dry mix gradually to avoid a cloud forming over your work area. Blend until smooth.

Fold in any optional goodies. Just in case the 1.5 cups of sugar per loaf of bread doesn't negate enough of the benefits of preservative-free pumpkin for you, I like to add 100 grams/8 ounces of chocolate per loaf. Since I feel like chocolate chips are way too expensive here in the Netherlands, I buy a 200 gram bar of dark chocolate (about equivalent of a 16 ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips) and chop it up by hand before folding in the chunks with a spatula.

Mmmm... chocolate.

Little Man likes to try and nick pieces of chocolate while I'm cutting - which is obviously dangerous. This time I smartly allowed him to pick one chuck and then promised all leftover crumbs of chocolate. This was happily accepted as he licked the cutting board upon completion.

Feel free to e-mail me to find out where to
mail my Mother of the Year Award for this
display of ultimate generosity.

Grease two loaf pans. I use two 9 inch x 5 inch x 3 inch metal pans. I believe the metric equivalent is a 24 cm long (ish) loaf pan.

Spoon the mix into the loaf pans. Divide the mix evenly between the two pans. Shake the pans to settle the mix evenly.

Bake the loaves at 350 degrees Farenheit/175 degrees Celcius for 55 to 65 minutes. Bake until a cake tester/toothpick/pokey stick comes out clean from the center. NOTE: My convection oven is too small to back both loaves at the same time. Normally, you don't want a mix with baking soda/sodium bicarbonate to sit too long before cooking because the mix will go flat. But letting the mix sit in the pan around an hour before cooking doesn't have any noticeable effect on the bread.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan about 15 to 20 minutes before removing from the pan. This allows the bread to cool enough so it doesn't fall apart when coming out of the pan.

Yay! Pumpkin bread!

Enjoy! I think they are delicious, I hope you'll find the recipe good, too. Great as breakfast or snack food with coffee and tea. 


  1. I'm so jealous of you right now. We can't be blog friends anymore. ;-) Haha. I just realized that I can't seem to find canned pumpkin here. Seriously? How can there be squash and pumpkins everywhere, but nothing canned or frozen?! I actually considered looking into using fresh pumpkin but that does sound like a lot of work. I'll have to beg my American military friends for some canned pumpkin. :-)

  2. Thanks for stopping by! I've heard that if you find the right American grocery store you can score some canned pumpkin, but you will pay a LOT for it. I'm going to take a look at your post in a little bit. =)

  3. It must be hard trying to modify recipes when abroad, but so glad you found the frozen pumpkin and got it to work. Love the picture of your son licking the cutting board:)

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Jessica! It's hard to watch the pumpkin-everything happen from afar, so I'm glad I found the frozen option - and Little Man is happy to help with the "clean up" ;)


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