With soccer season over, I’ve been getting back into two of my favorite quiet, solitary activities (which also happen to involve physical exertion, happily)—hiking and biking. And it is a fact that, in New England at least, autumn is the best time of year for those activities. The weather is perfect, for one. Crisp and just a little chilly but not frigid or overly-warm. But beauty of New England is best visible this time of year, and there’s no better way to experience it than hiking through the woods, camera in hand.
|I was aiming at the two ducks in the middle of the pond, but the rest is nice too.|
I’m lucky enough to live close to a small preserve laced with some easy but good hiking trails, with lots of twists and turns and shortcuts and longer routes twisting through every part of the forest. It’s fun, in a way, trying out new, convoluted routes to get to the same “summit” (which is not much of a summit, given that the “mountain” is more of a big hill than anything). Each part of the forest is different, with some more coniferous sections, like this—
|Pictured: some conifers. And some other stuff.|
And some deciduous sections, where the ground is covered with so many leaves the hiking trail is barely visible underneath the carnage.
|I say "carnage" because it is literally a layer of dead organic matter. Don't tell me that's not carnage.|
And that’s the beauty of mixed forests, I guess. You’re never bored with the tree selection.
But the most beautiful thing is the silence. Okay, relative silence, given that you can kinda hear the highway from some parts of the trail, which is a bummer, but the preserve isn’t so huge that you can totally escape civilization on it. The near-silence is still pretty good. For thinking, for contemplating life, for worrying about all the homework I have to do when I get home and the plot twists I have to incorporate into the next chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel, for not thinking about anything at all. Just me, the trees, and a few squirrels or whatever creatures happen to be nearby.
To change the subject ever-so-slightly—the only thing as quintessentially fall, for me at least, as those relaxing autumn hikes is pumpkin bread. And it is a damn shame I don’t have a recipe for it on the blog yet.
|Ah, but that will change.|
My mom has always made pumpkin bread in fall using a rich, chocolate chip-studded recipe that spares no butter or sugar in its pursuit of pumpkin-y deliciousness. That one recipe has forever influenced my idea of the perfect pumpkin bread—dense, chocolate chip-y, and sweet and buttery like cake.
This recipe is not the same one, as it is adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook and is somewhat nontraditional, in that it requires a resting time of 12 to 24 hours. Supposedly keeps the loaf nice and moist. I haven’t experimented enough with this pumpkin bread to know if the strategy works, but I won’t say it doesn’t work, because goddamit if this isn’t a delicious loaf. Every bit as moist and dense and sweet and spiced as it should be.
|It's just...so beautiful. *sniffs*|
I did veganize the cookbook version, subbing in tofu for eggs (trust me, as usual), and olive oil for regular vegetable oil, because I’m weird and I think olive oil goes well in everything.
Plus I added chocolate chips, because of course.
Here’s the recipe.
Chocolate chip pumpkin bread
Adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller
200 grams • all-purpose flour • 1 ¼ cups plus 3 tablespoons
2.3 grams • baking soda • ½ teaspoon
2.5 grams • cinnamon • 1 teaspoon
0.6 grams • cloves • ¼ teaspoon
0.5 grams • nutmeg • ½ teaspoon
1 gram • kosher salt • ½ teaspoon
222 grams • granulated sugar • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
100 grams • olive oil • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons
210 grams • pumpkin puree • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons
168 grams • silken tofu, blended until smooth • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
120 grams • chocolate chips • ¾ cup
Grease an 8 x 4 loaf pan; set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.
Whisk together sugar and olive oil in a separate large bowl. Add pumpkin and whisk for a minute until smooth. Add tofu and whisk for another minute to incorporate.
Stir dry ingredients into wet just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared baking pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in a refrigerator overnight.
The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove loaf from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature while oven preheats. Bake for 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
|Notice adorable mini pumpkins.|
For more delicious pumpkin-infused recipes, click on these links down here. Doesn’t hurt to try, eh?
Chocolate chip pumpkin spice cookie sandwiches with chocolate buttercream. So many delicious components to this.
Pumpkin pie cheesecake bars with gingersnap crust. What’s better than pumpkin pie? Uh, these.
Pumpkin pie cheesecake-stuffed breakfast braid. Crazy, right?
Pumpkin French toast with pumpkin pie filling. Like pie for breakfast.