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from "A Blessing of Bread" by Maggie Glezer

A Sephardic specialty adapted from a recipe in Gilda Angel's Sephardic Home Cooking, this gently spiced, ultra moist bread has a velvety pale orange crumb and stays soft for days, thanks to the pumpkin purée (which actually brings little flavor to the bread). You can use puréed baked sweet potato or Libby's brand pumpkin purée if you prefer using canned. Also, if your cardamom is freshly ground and powerfully fragrant, use the smaller amount; otherwise it may overwhelm the other flavors.

About the symbolism of pumpkin for Rosh Hashanah, Mrs. Angel writes, "Food made with pumpkin is served to express the hope that as this vegetable has been protected by a thick covering, God will protect us and gird us with strength."

Makes: Two 1-pound (450-gram) breads, one 1 1/2 -pound (680-gram) bread plus three rolls, or sixteen 2-ounce (60-gram) rolls.
Recipe Synopsis: If using fresh pumpkin or sweet potato, bake and purée. Make a yeast slurry, then beat in the remaining ingredients and mix the dough. Let the dough rise for 2 to 3 hours. Shape the loaves and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours. Bake the breads for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on their size.
Time Required: About 6 hours, not including the time for preparing the purée.

 A Blessing of Bread

1 small pie pumpkin or 1 sweet potato for 1/2 cup (4 ounces) purée (or use 1/2 cup canned pumpkin purée)
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons/7grams/0.25 ounce) instant yeast
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
About 3 3/4 cups (7.6 ounces) bread flour
2/3 cup (5 ounces) warm water
1/3 cup (2.4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (0.3 ounces) table salt
1/4 cup (1.9 ounces) vegetable oil
1 large egg, plus 1 for glazing
Sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

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Preparing the Potato or Sweet Potato
If using a pie pumpkin, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds (which can be cleaned of the fiber and separately roasted in oil for a snack). Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Or, for the sweet potato, just place it on a foil-lined sheet and pierce it several times with a knife. Bake at 375°F for about 1 hour for the pumpkin or at least 2 hours for the sweet potato: The pumpkin is ready when it feels soft and most of the liquid it release has evaporated; the sweet potato is ready when any juices have hardened into a dark brown foam. Let cook, then scoop out the flesh and mash it or put it through a sieve or ricer. Measure out 1/2 cup (4 ounces) purée for the recipe. (Refrigerate the purée if not using it right away.)

Mixing the Yeast Slurry
In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast, cardamom, ginger, and 2/3 cup (3.2 ounces) of the flour. Whisk in the warm water until smooth. Let the slurry stand uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.
Mixing the Dough
Whisk the sugar, salt, oil, 1 egg, and purée into the puffed yeast slurry until well combined. With your hands or a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (14.4.ounces) flour all at once. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface and knead it until it is well mixed, fairly smooth, and firm. (Soak your mixing bowl in hot water now to clean it and warm it for fermenting the dough.) If the dough is too firm, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour.
The dough should be firm, easy to knead, and not at all sticky.
Fermenting the Dough
When the dough is fully kneaded, set it in the warmed clean bowl and over it with plastic wrap. (Or, the dough can be refrigerated at this point for up to 24 hours.) Let the dough ferment until it has tripled in bulk, about 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. (If the dough has been refrigerated, it will take up to an additional 1 hour to ferment.)
Shaping and Proofing the Dough
Line one or two baking sheets, depending on the number of breads you are baking, with parchment paper or oil them. Divide the dough into two 1-pound portions for loaves, into one 1 1/2 -pound portion for a large loaf and three small pieces for rolls (the easiest way to do this without a scale is to divide the dough into quarters and use one quarter for the rolls and the rest for the large loaf), or sixteen 2-opunce portions for rolls. Braid or shape them as desired. Tent the shapes well with plastic wrap. (At this point, the loaves can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.) Let the loaves proof until tripled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or up to 2 1/2 hours if the loaves have been refrigerated).
Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower third positions if using two baking sheets, or one oven rack in the upper third position if using two baking sheets, or one oven rack in the upper third position if using one baking sheet, and remove any racks above them. Preheat the oven to 350°F. If desired, you can preheat one or two baking sheets to double with the baking sheet(s) the loaves are on. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt to use for glazing the breads.
Baking the Breads
When the loaves have tripled and do not push back when gently pressed with your finger but remain indented, brush them with the egg glaze. Sprinkle the loaves with sesame seeds, if desired. Bake rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, the 1-pound loaves for 35 to 40 minutes, or the 1 1/2 -pound loaf for 40 to 45 minutes, until very well browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking, switch the pans from top to bottom, if using two pans, and from front to back so that the breads brown evenly; if the large loaf is browning too quickly, tent it with foil. When the loaves are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack.

Buy The Ingredients Use Fresh Pumpkin
Product nutrition and information
 Quantity Ingredients Est.Price
  Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin - $4.19/ea
  Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast - $2.99/ea
 3ct, 0.25oz ea
  FreshDirect Ground Cardamom
This product is currently unavailable.
  Arrowhead Mills Organic Unbleached White Flour - $7.49/ea
Optional Ingredients
  FreshDirect Sesame Seed
This product is currently unavailable.
You May Already Have
  Spice Supreme Ground Ginger - $1.29/ea
  Domino Granulated White Sugar - $2.79/ea
  La Baleine Fine Sea Salt - $4.69/ea
  Wesson Vegetable Oil - $4.49/ea
 24fl oz
  Alderfer Eggs Grade A Large Organic Eggs
This product is currently unavailable.
Estimated Total:  
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