February 26, 2020

Not-Too-Sweet Spiced Pumpkin Bread

October Cake

To be honest, this is more pumpkin bread than pumpkin cake. Yet because I don’t make cakes to have on hand for fear that my inner, ravenous, fat-bodied appetite might unleash itself, and because I do have a tendency to uncontrollably devour any carb-y, creamy, cake-like thing I find — the direct result of a childhood during which on the rare occasion there was something sugary or chocolatey in the house, it was never for me because my mother hid the goods on the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard she thought I didn’t know about and because the only way for me to get to the shiny box in the back was to use a chair to climb quietly on the countertop, stand on tippy toes and risk toppling all of the family’s finest crystal — I invented this pumpkin bread to finally put me at ease and enable me to squeeze into my skinny jeans with only mild muffin-top love handles to show for it. Except I call it cake.

My female friends can’t get enough of it. It is a perfect, guilt-free breakfast quickie, pre- or post-workout pick-me-up, tea-time teaser or bedtime snack.

And it stays moist for days.

I specify female friends because guys don’t seem to be in love with it as much as women are. Itamar, my long-lost soul twin (middle child with psychotherapist mother — hence we are both “messed up in the head” in exactly the same way) recently visited from Israel with his wife, Daphna. “Where is the sugar?” he asked with his mouth full. “No, no, it’s good because it’s heal-fy” (Israelis think no one will notice if they substitute an “f” for “th”). “I mean it’s good for you and Daphna but it’s not my fing. It needs sugar.” Daphna, on the other hand, couldn’t stop raving. As is the case with KJ, Sally, Danielle and so many others. This bread — I mean cake — was made for us.

Don’t get me wrong: Plenty of men like it along with my other less-sweet desserts so don’t hesitate to make this treat for your guy. Just be aware that it can take a little adjustment of the palate to start enjoying “sweets” that aren’t very sweet. But what less sweetness enables us to do is to actually taste the ingredients. And because October Cake isn’t made with bland and pasty white flour but with different kinds of flours, grains and spices that have delicious and unique flavors, each mouthful will satiate you on deep, multilayered levels. It is like injecting healthy comfort right into your veins. Mmmm.

If only intravenous bliss was an option for nice women like me …

October Cake
For cooks’ convenience, a short-cut version is provided

1 stick salted butter, room temperature, cut into 8 or so pieces, plus a little more to grease baking pan
2 eggs
1 cup or half of a 12-ounce can organic pumpkin purée
1/4 cup agave syrup, raw if possible, or 1/3 cup honey, raw if possible
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 1/2 cups oat flour or gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup barley flour (for gluten-free, add more gluten-free oat flour instead)
2 generous tablespoons rice bran, plus more for dusting on top
2 generous tablespoons oat bran (for gluten-free, omit; substitute with quinoa flakes or add more rice bran)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (dairy, rice or soy will do just fine)
1/4 cup applesauce
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish or bread loaf pan with butter.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and the butter until the butter is mostly incorporated. (It’s more than OK if little pieces of butter remain. They will melt in the oven.)

Add the pumpkin, the agave and molasses and beat until well mixed.

Sift the flours into a large bowl.

Add the other dry ingredients.

Fold the flours into the pumpkin mix with a rubber spatula.

Add the almond milk (or milk of your choice) and stir until batter loosens.

Add the applesauce and fold over until batter lightens up.

Pour the mixture into baking dish and smooth it with the rubber spatula.

Generously dust with extra rice bran. It will give that crumbly topping feel of a Jewish deli chocolate chip Danish.

Bake about 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out mostly clean. Let rest on counter to cool.

Keep in plain sight in kitchen central. Don’t hide from yourself. Eat to your heart’s content.

Serves 10.

Elana Horwich is the author of “Meal and a Spiel: How to Be a Badass in the Kitchen” and the founder of the Meal and a Spiel cooking school.