Bake Club: Pumpkin Bourbon Bread

Back in the spring when I was buying squash seeds, I purchased butternut squash. When they came from the online shop they were actually kobocha squash. This was a happy accident. I had no idea what to do with them but after a little research, I learned they taste like pumpkin and sweet potato. Libby’s uses these to make their canned pumpkin – this could be a lie because I hear Libby genetically created their own special squash. Doesn’t matter – the kobocha squash tasted exactly like canned pumpkin only… fresher if that makes sense.

I harvested them, cut them up, seeded and roasted them for about an hour at 400F – until fork tender. I had 5lbs of squash and that should yield about 2-2.5 cups of puree. I pushed the roasted pulp through a sieve and was very pleased with the result.

The puree was smooth and tasty.

I followed Melissa Clark’s Pumpkin Bourbon Bread recipe. I had a some bourbon leftover from making vanilla extract and I had 1 3/4 of squash left aft I ran it through the sieve so it work out perfectly! You can use canned pumpkin but my garden squash was next level!

Her method for making brown butter was the easiest method. The key is to use a skillet. That way you can actually see when the solids turn. Big foam – then brown solids. Perfect.

I added all the wet ingredients into the squash except the sugar. That was weird. The sugar needed to be whisked into the flour. I had never done that before.

The 1/4 cup of whisky smelled amazing. Don’t leave it out. It makes this bread.

Then combine everything together and fill two 8″ loaf pans. I have 9″ so they were a bit shallow.

This made two loaves and I think pistachios would be great in this. I used fresh and fragrant ground cardamom – It is worth doing that as well. I am learning fresh spices not purchased in bulk at Costco is worth it. The flavour intensity is amazing.

These were simple to make and Melissa Clarks instructions are always easy to follow. I added this recipe to my hand written recipe book because I will always make this version.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Vanilla Extract

Has anyone else notice how expensive vanilla extract is? The price keeps rising because of how labour intensive it is to grow them and how rare they are. 80% of the worlds supply comes from Madagascar. I spend – roughly on average – $204 for twelve cups of pure vanilla extract. I think I go through about one and a half cups a year. This year is a bit more because of the pandemic but maybe it is my regular life now, who knows? But even at $25 a year – that gets expensive. It also isn’t always the best quality. My mom brought me 2L of Mexican vanilla once. It was wonderful and lasted a couple of years. Last year I went to Trader Joe’s and brought home bourbon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup for $9 usd. It was good. I mean, reeeeeaaaaalllyyyy good. I wanted that flavour on a regular basis.

So I did the research.

I watched numerous videos and read articles about making your own. I learned that the more vanilla bean you use, the faster it is ready. One gal used 1 bean per four cups and it took a year before she could use it. Ina Gartner uses 10 beans per four cups and it was read in less than 4 weeks. Regardless of quantity, the process is incredibly simple.

Next I did the research looking for vanillla bean. Sobeys rarely has any and often it is one in a glass test tube for $8. Bulk Barn didn’t have any – but they cary paste. Cool to know, but not what I am looking for. I googled a local source and found Silk Road Spice Merchant on Whyte Avenue. The original shop is in Calgary. They recently reopened here in Edmonton. There was a bit of a wait to enter the shop. The limit the number of people allowed in at one time. They have sanitized baskets, hand sanitizer at the entrance and pleanty of staff on hand to help.

THIS WAS A COOL SHOP!

It felt like an old timey apothecary. There were jars of various spices lined on shelves. You could purchase in jars or they would weigh out amounts for you an put it in a bag. All of it was cool.

I went in looking for whole nutmeg for my pumpkin pies and 10 Tahitian vanilla beans (the lesser expensive to Madagascar bean). I came away with black volcanic salt from Hawaii, and very fragrant cardamom. The smells and pungency of these spices are incredible compared to Bulk Barn. Fresh is best apparently.

The vanilla bean was the freshest I have ever experienced. They were soft and fragrant.

I cut them in half. My kitchen and I smelled like vanilla for the rest of the day and I wasn’t mad about that.

I bought the cheapest bourbon available to me. $25 for 750 ml of Jim Bean Kentucky Bourbon, I bought two. I filled three 2-cup jars with the bourbon. and divided up the twenty pieces. When it got down to the last two, I chopped them in thirds and popped them into the jars.

I have left them on my counter so I remember to shake them up about three-four times a day for a week. Then once in the pantry, they will get a shake about once every four to five days. In 4-6 weeks it should be ready to use and will last indefinitely.

Once the jar has about a quarter left, I can refill it with bourbon for one more use. That doubles the value of those beans or I can squeeze the the beans and get a paste out and stick the empty pod in to a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. Either way, excellent value because six cups of vanilla bourbon extract cost me $99. I saved $105. Maybe I will buy myself some new cake pans, a new rolling pin and a set of circle cutters. OR I could buy new electric beaters. OR maybe just put it away for something else.

When these beauties are ready they will be dark – just like the stuff you buy from the grocery store. I will let you know how it turns out.

Stay healthy everyone!