As much as I hate to admit it, autumn is almost here. There are 10 things that to me indicate fall is rapidly approaching:
1. The trees along Route 7 to Pittsfield turn a reddish-green color — not green as in summer, but not as red as they eventually will be.
2. My car needs to have the state inspection sticker renewed.
3. I look out the back door and see a black cover on the swimming pool.
4. The plants in my garden are leggy and spindly, and ready to give up the ghost.
5. The dog, who has slept at the foot of my bed directly in front of the window fan all summer, glues herself to my side all night to stay warm.
6. There is a thin coating of ice on the car windshield in the morning.
7. My feet get cold walking the dog while wearing flip-flops.
8. The sun in the morning is at an angle that blinds as I commute to work. It's too low for the visor to be effective and not high enough to be ignored.
9. It's dark when I get up at 6 a.m. and dark before I clean up the dinner dishes at 7 p.m.
10. Everything on the supermarket shelves, at our favorite drive-thrus and every recipe printed are pumpkin or pumpkin spice based.
It's amazing what can be pumpkin-flavor — baked goods, like muffins, bread, donuts, cookies, bagels and waffles; ice cream; ravioli; yogurt and cream cheese; cereal; coffee, tea and non-daily creamers; beer and ale, wine and vodka; seltzer and, yes, I found a pumpkin-spice soda the other day. You name it and it probably comes in pumpkin spice.
As I cruised the baking aisle the other day looking for canned pumpkin for baking cookies, bread and whoopie pies to wash down with my pumpkin-spice coffee, I realized I, too, had been brain-washed ...
At this time of year, I always keep a couple cans of canned pumpkin in the pantry. This recipe for pumpkin bread makes two loaves; the same amount of work as for making one and you have another to share with friends or freeze for future use.
Simple pumpkin bread
Makes two 9-inch loaves (about 24 servings)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon each: baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
1 can (16 ounces) pure pumpkin
Grease and flour two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugars in a medium bowl. Whisk in butter until fully incorporated and then pumpkin. Beat wet ingredients into dry ingredients until smooth; divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool a few minutes. Run a knife around pan to loosen bread. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For a lighter pumpkin bread, substitute 1/2 cup applesauce for 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of the butter.