Pan de Calabaza: Pumpkin Challah
This bread brings fall ingredients to your festive meals and reflects the longtime usage of pumpkin among Sephardi Jews. See the Jewish Week for my story about unusual Rosh Hashanah breads, “Beyond Challah and Honey: Rosh Hashanah Breads From Around the World.”
Prep time: 30 minutes
Rising time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
Yield: two loaves and 12 rolls or three loaves
Adapted from: Sephardic Holiday Cooking by Gilda Angel
2 packages active dry yeast or 4 ½ teaspoons of active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
2 cups warm water (approximately 110º F)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup vegetable oil, plus some for the rising bowl
2 eggs, lightly beaten + 1 egg for wash, lightly beaten
1 cup canned cooked pumpkin sometimes called puree (not pie filling)
8 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sesame seeds for topping
1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in water. Let it foam for 10 minutes.
2. Mix in ginger, cardamom, salt, oil, 2 eggs and pumpkin. Blend in flour, 2 cups at a time, mixing well after each addition.
3. On lightly floured surface or on a plastic mat, knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Re-flour surface if dough is too sticky.
4. Place the ball of dough into a large, oiled bowl and turn it to be coated in oil. Place the bowl into a plastic bag and allow to rise in warm, draft free space until doubled, about 1 hour.
5. Gently deflate the dough and divide it into thirds. Again on lightly floured surface or plastic mat, form 2 loaves and 12 rolls (keeping the dough not being shaped, covered in the bag). Use lightly greased or parchment paper lined 9x5x3 loaf pans for rectangular shape or round cake pans for round loaves. Use greased/lined cookie sheet for the rolls or place rounds into greased/lined muffin pan for more uniformity.
6. Cover with bag and let rise in warm, draft free space until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. After 30 minutes pre-heat the oven to 375º F.
7. When the rise is complete, brush the tops of the loaves/rolls with beaten egg. Sprinkle all with sesame seeds. Place into the oven. After about 15 minutes remove all, rebrush the expanded portions of the dough, and replace in oven, switching the placement of the pans to evenly brown.
8. Bake the rolls for about 5 more minutes and remove from the oven to a cooling rack.
9. Bake the loaves an additional 25 minutes (total of 45 minutes), or until golden brown. If they seem to be browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Tap bottom for hollow sound or check internal temperature; they are done at 190º F.
10. Turn out onto rack to cool completely.
1. This makes a lot of bread which makes sense, especially for holiday family and company. The recipe can be halved as follows for a smaller yield:
1 packet active dry yeast or 2 ¼ teaspoon
¼ cup sugar
1 cup warm water (110º F)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg, plus 1 yolk, beaten lightly, save the egg white for the wash
½ cup canned cooked pumpkin
4 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2. I did not try braiding this but it should work. I like baking it in a round shaped cake pan for the symbolism of the year’s cycle.
3. The top may be slashed gently with a knife or kitchen scissor. I like the look.
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