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Flour Girl: A pumpkin stand-in

Maple Sweet Potato Spice Bread. (Leigh Lambert/The Washington Post)

This year's pumpkin harvest was disappointing, causing a shortage of canned pumpkin. Most people would find this a challenge only at Thanksgiving, but for devotees like myself who like to use it year-round (I've written about pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes and more), it created a bigger problem.

I love a sweet quick bread; it serves as breakfast, midday snack (with tea, of course) as well as dessert. But when I spotted Maple Pumpkin Spice Bread in Vegetarian Times (November/December 2009), I didn't have any canned pumpkin on hand and figured one orange mush could probably substitute for another. So I used canned sweet potato. The sugar content is a bit different, but otherwise they seem fairly interchangeable.

This recipe has a lot of spices that seem to integrate well rather than overwhelm. It uses maple syrup in place of sugar, giving dimension as well as moistness. (Maple syrup is expensive, but I think it's worth it. Other pancake syrup really isn't a good stand in.) While this is not a healthful recipe, nor is it devoid of nutrition. It has whole-wheat flour and pecans and sweet potato (or pumpkin, if you wish), all of which have positive attributes.

If you are so inclined, you can double this recipe and freeze a loaf to have on hand when company drops in.

-- Leigh Lambert

Maple Sweet Potato Spice Bread
Makes a 9-by-5-inch loaf (12 servings)

When this bread is baking, it smells like Christmas morning. This recipe originally called for pumpkin puree, which may be hard to come by these days. We used sweet potato here; either makes for a moist loaf and a perfect tea bread. Adapted from the November-December 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times.

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup (all-purpose) flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned sweet potato puree (see headnote)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (may substitute hazelnuts or walnuts; see NOTE)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking oil spray.

Whisk together the flours, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and allspice in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk together the maple syrup and oil in a medium bowl, then whisk in the eggs, sweet potato puree and vanilla extract. Use a wooden spoon to fold in the flour mixture, then the pecans, until well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan to cool the loaf on the rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting into slices.

NOTE: To toast nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place in a 325-degree oven, shaking the sheet occasionally, for 15 minutes. Watch carefully; nuts burn quickly.

Per serving: 289 calories, 4 g protein, 39 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 139 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  March 18, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Flour Girl, Leigh Lambert, dessert, quick bread, recipes  
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