My kids have started listening to Christmas music. Which, by extension, means that I have also started listening to Christmas music.
I didn't stop them when they asked. I may have even encouraged it, by subtly humming under my breath some of my favorite Burl Ives tunes. And certainly, I was the most excited of us all when we drove past two little pine trees, all lit up for the holiday. The first of the season.
With my boys getting more and more into the swing of it (Christmas music every day! Drawing Christmas pictures! Playing Santa games!), I'm realizing I wasn't quite ready. I love Christmas, I really do. But I also love deep fall. It might be my favorite time of year. I love the lull between seasons, the pause between the crazy of late summer and the crazy of the holidays. I love the color show, the one that explodes naturally in my backyard, no extension cords and spare bulbs needed. I love the parade of birds that passes by my windows, making pit stops in my normally sparrow-dominated yard to gorge on berries and sunflower seeds as they go about their seasonal travels. Cedar waxwings, purple finches, tufted titmice - these guys are just as exciting to me as any downtown holiday window display. I even love the temperature change. My house feels cozier with the heat turned on, and it makes me want to light candles and roast something delicious. This is a different — perhaps better? — cozy than Christmas Cozy, more wool sweaters and hunkering down, less tinsel and expectations. Even walking across the lawn after a frost, hearing the blades of grass crunch under my feet and feeling the nubs of exposed dirt crumble from the shifting pressure of my shoe, even that bit of unremarkable normalness is a sensory delight I never tire of.
But to embrace Christmas means embracing winter. And winter it is not. I only just yesterday finished raking the mounds of leaves shed by our towering maples, and underneath I found sprightly green grass and a lone, brave dandilion! Wylie took his coat and hat off while playing outside the other day, and didn't get chilled. And while I have to break a film of ice off the hens' water each morning, it's never cold enough to freeze back up during the day.
Deep fall. Not winter.
And besides, I haven't quite finished all my fall activities yet. There are those leaves, for one, now pushed into piles scattered blatantly across the yard, that I still have to contend with. Speaking of leaves, the boys and I have only managed to make one leaf rubbing so far, but with still more leaves coming down every day (our trees hang on to their summer garb longer than anyone else in the neighborhood!), we should be able to find time for a few more. There is also the cider situation. We haven't had nearly enough warm cider this year. And what about the caramel apples that Wylie has repeatedly pressured me for?
I'm just not quite done with fall. Give me one more day of yard work under a warm sun, a couple more intensely cold and crisp apples eaten out of hand, and another batch of pumpkin spice bread, and then I'll be ready.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Wishing all of you good food, warm homes, and plenty of cozy as we make the transition to winter and the holiday season.
Pumpkin Spice Bread
Yields two 8x4-inch loaves
It was my turn to bring snack to Wylie's preschool last week, and since we didn't have any super-ripe bananas for banana muffins, pumpkin bread was his second choice (along with sliced apples and bananas and super-sharp cheddar cheese - those kids are enthusiastic eaters!). And what a good second choice it was! The house smelled amazing as it was baking, and the kids at school devoured it. It was also oh-so-satisfying from a baker's perspective, as the batter only filled the pans halfway but rose to glorious heights once tucked away in the oven, cresting almost two inches above the lip! But there wasn't nearly enough leftover for my own family, and given how easy it is to throw together (I made the first batch right before bedtime) and the fact that there is a can of pumpkin just sitting in my cupboard, denied its appearance at this Thanksgiving in favor of a sweet potato pie, I think there is more pumpkin bread in our very near future.
455 grams Tara's all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, or your favorite all-purpose blend
2 teaspoons baking soda
1¾ teaspoons xanthan gum or psyllium husk powder
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1 rounded teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling), or homemade pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
250 grams unbleached cane sugar
150 grams light brown sugar
150 grams water
135 grams unsweetened applesauce
95 grams canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease two 8x4-inch loaf pans and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, xanthan/psyllium, salt and spices. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining ingredients and mix on medium speed until well blended. (You could also use a handheld electric mixer for this.)
Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix on low to blend, then increase the speed to high and beat for one minute.
Divide batter between the prepared pans and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then remove the loaves from the pans and finish cooling on a wire rack. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature, for up to four days.
Posted by Tara Barker at 2:17 PM