Really Good Pumpkin Bread

Fall is here, so that means the wait is finally over.  It is now time to break out the pumpkin!  And just in time, I got the new Cook’s Illustrated magazine and saw a recipe for “really good pumpkin bread”.  Well, that sounds like a challenge to me.  Is it really good pumpkin bread?  I need to find out.  The weird thing about this recipe is that you actually cook the canned pumpkin.  This sort of takes the quick out of quick bread, but according to CI, it is supposed to remove the raw, tinny taste of canned pumpkin.  I never noticed that before, but whatever, I went with it.  I’m sure it also concentrates the pumpkin flavor, which can only be a good thing.  You add the usual fall spices of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, which together make the house smell absolutely amazing as the bread bakes.  You then sprinkle the batter with a delicious cinnamon streusel which gives a nice crunch and spicy sweetness to the top of the bread.

Jack and Sammie wouldn’t even try it.  Oh well, their loss.  My husband, Justin, a pumpkin bread connoisseur, loved it.  He said it wasn’t as dense as other pumpkin breads, but in a good way.  The baby also loved it.  I gave Alex a small piece at a time, so as not to make a big mess.  He kept coming back and enthusiastically using his hands to sign for more.  So is this really good pumpkin bread?  Yes, of course.  I mean, at least in my experience, the folks at Cook’s Illustrated are never wrong.

Really Good Pumpkin Bread

Yield: two 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaves (or you can use two 9×5 inch pans, but check for doneness 5 minutes early)

For the Topping: 

5 tablespoons packed (2 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

Using your fingers, mix all five ingredients together in small bowl until well combined.  The topping should look like wet sand.  Set aside.

For the bread:

2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar

1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces

4 large eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine   I omitted

Adjust oven rack to the middle and preheat to 350F. Spray two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray (Pam).  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, ~ 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes so the cream cheese can melt. Whisk until you can’t see pieces of cream cheese and mixture is homogeneous.

Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add the egg mixture to pumpkin mixture. Whisk to combine. Gently fold the flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just combined (some small lumps of flour are okay). Fold walnuts into batter, if using. Scrape the batter, half into each of the two sprayed pans. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, ~ 45 to 50 minutes. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove the breads from the pans. Let cool for at least 1½ hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source:  Cook’s Illustrated September/October 2012

Leave a comment


  1. I can imagin how good your house must of smelled with that baking and cooling,

  2. kate dolan

     /  October 2, 2012

    I love Cook’s! I’ll try this his week! Thanks for this post.

  3. Wow – I hadn’t heard of cooking canned pumpkin either. This sounds like the perfect fall bread!

  4. I can’t wait to try this! I’ve been looking for a great pumpkin bread recipe and cooking the pumpkin definitely makes this recipe stand out. I love your photo!! 🙂

  5. Monica h

     /  October 2, 2012

    You have a beautiful blog and I’ve been drooling over it the last few days. So many tummies on here! Great job. I look forward to trying many of them. Ate you on Instagram?

    Monica h

    • Aww, thanks Monica. You are very sweet! No, I’m not on Instagram. If you try one, please let me know how it turns out!!

  6. Monica h

     /  October 2, 2012

    Yummies not tummies 🙂

  7. Your photo made my mouth water. I’m definitely going to be making this!

  8. Eileen Lustig

     /  November 15, 2012

    Made the pumpkin bread today. After testing various recipes I found on the computer, this one was the best. I added 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup craisins, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. allspice. Increased the cinnamon to 2 tsp. and the nutmeg to 1/2 tsp. Thanks for posting this recipe. I’m freezing them for Thanksgiving.

  9. Sheri

     /  January 25, 2013

    I always add a large handful of white chocolate chips to the warm batter, so they melt in. This recipe has ruined me on all other pumpkin bread;
    it really is the best!

  10. I’m gonna have to try this very soon. It looks soooo good!

  11. EllaBella

     /  April 14, 2013

    is it possible to do it sugar free?

  12. Awesome, AWESOME bread!!! Thanks for the recipe, we LOVED IT!!

  13. Beth

     /  October 11, 2013

    Made it todayitsintheovennowsmellswonderful,

  14. Jen

     /  October 29, 2013

    This is my new favorite. I sub 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce for half of the vegetable oil to cut back on the fat. Still totally yummy!

  15. Jackie Powers

     /  October 30, 2013

    Trying to turn these into muffins, should i just bake them in a muffin tin for like 25 mins or until done in the middle? Anyone have any ideas on temp and time?

  16. Cindy

     /  November 11, 2013

    Love this recipe! With my 9×5 pans, this recipe makes short loaves, so I increase the recipe by 50% and get nice big loaves. (I leave the topping at the original amount, and the spices.) This does mean using 1 1/2 cans of pumpkin, so I freeze the half can and then make a point of doing another batch of the bread within a few weeks to use up the frozen pumpkin.

    I suspect it may be the cream cheese, more than cooking the pumpkin, that makes it so delicious. I may run a controlled experiment to test this some time. 🙂

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