Last fall I experimented with a savory pumpkin bread to make use of some discarded sourdough starter that had been hanging out in my fridge all summer. It was delicious, and empowered me to play around with a classic family recipe I otherwise wouldn’t have touched. What fun about baking with fermented starter—active or discarded—is being able to engage with food as a living thing. When you mix the ingredients of this bread, you’re not only surrounded by the intoxicating aroma of fall spices, but you can see with your eyes how the molecules are interacting with one another. The little lift, and faint bubbling sound that comes when you add the baking powder and soda (necessary since the starter is not active) feels a bit like a gust of autumn wind—exciting and invigorating.
In Ayurveda, we often turn to the sweet taste as a way to support a troubled spirit, so combined with the warming spices, soaked raisins (which makes them easier to digest), and grounding fresh pumpkin, this bread offers just the kind of food-hug you need to lift you out of a cold-weather slump. That being said, this bread is notably not as sweet as the kinds you find in cafes or bakeries; it’s just enough, IMHO, to hit that proverbial spot without feeling cloying on the tongue, which also makes it great to eat with any meal. While you can easily use canned pumpkin puree as the base, making your own from a fresh pumpkin you pick yourself (or fetch from a farmers’ market) helps strengthen the connection to the earth element that this bread is all about.
Sweet Vegan Pumpkin Bread with Discard Sourdough Starter
- 1 cup pumpkin puree mashed, from 1 small pumpkin
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1 inch fresh ginger sliced
- 16 whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons flax meal
- 1 3/4 cups rolled oats
- 3/4 cup discard sourdough starter room temperature
- 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon mineral salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- To make the pumpkin puree: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lightly grease the inside of a loaf pan with coconut oil. Stab the pumpkin a few times with a knife (like you would to bake a potato). Place on the baking sheet, and cook for about 1 hour, or until soft when pierced with a knife. Let cool, then cut in half. Scoop out the seeds with a large spoon and compost. Scoop out the flesh from the pumpkin skin.
- Meanwhile, place raisins in a glass bowl or dish with the ginger slices and 8 cloves. Pour boiling water over the raisins just to cover. Let stand for at least 1 hour, or overnight, to infuse with the spices.
- Add the flax meal to a large bowl with 6 tablespoons warm water. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken. Pulse 1 cup oats in a food processor or spice grinder to make a fine flour. Add to the bowl with the flax, then add the starter, pumpkin, and 3/4 cup oats. Stir to combine. Store any leftover pumpkin in a container in the fridge.
- Add the coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt, nutmeg, and molasses. Stir to combine. Strain the raisins from their soaking liquid (reserve it in a jar as a sweetener for teas) and add them to the bowl.
- Add the baking soda and powder, and stir. The batter will begin to bubble slightly.
- Pour the batter evenly into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden on the top and a knife comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Let cool completely, then turn the loaf out onto a plate. Insert the remaining cloves along the top and sides of the loaf. Store in an airtight container on the counter for up to 2 days, or up to 1 week in the fridge (the bread is moist, so if your house is warm best to keep it refrigerated the whole time to prevent mold).