Day 15: Baking favorites

Somehow, I lived in Seattle for over a year before discovering Macrina Bakery. There was a nice little bakery in our neighborhood, and I didn’t spend much time in the Belltown neighborhood that’s home to Macrina’s first — then only — bakery and cafe.

Then I took a job at a firm in Belltown, just a couple of blocks from Macrina. I stopped in for the first time after seeing the line out the door at lunchtime, and was hooked. Over several years, I tasted my way through many of their pastries and breads. While I like most of their baked goods, my favorite is the squash harvest bread, a moist quick bread with the earthy sweetness of roasted butternut squash and the crunch of walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Once a week, I’d stop by Macrina before work and treat myself to a slice of that luscious squash bread.

When I changed jobs in 2006 (long story, not bloggable), my new office was near Pike Place Market, a bit too far to walk to Macrina regularly. However, the bookstore/coffeehouse downstairs in our building served Macrina pastries, and had squash bread two mornings each week. I could still have my weekly squash bread! And then I changed jobs again last year (also long story, even less bloggable), and none of the coffee shops near my new Pioneer Square office serve Macrina pastries.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I treated myself to a new cookbook. (Cookbooks — now there’s a reason to be thankful!) I’ve had the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook on my list since it was first published, and as I browsed in our neighborhood bookstore‘s cookbook section, it was one of three or four that I picked up to consider. My desire to recreate — or at least attempt — my favorite breads and pastries from Seattle’s best bakery won out.

When I felt the urge to bake on Saturday, both for the pleasure of it and to warm up the kitchen, I reached for my new cookbook. I’d roasted a huge butternut squash the previous day, so I turned directly to the recipe for squash harvest bread. Like most quick breads, this recipe comes together — wait for it — quickly (assuming you’ve already roasted the squash).

Warm from the oven, the squash bread was moist and flavorful, but it didn’t taste quite like a slice from Macrina’s pastry case. By Sunday, the flavors had melded, and the loaf was somehow even moister, and closer to the original. And here’s something I didn’t know, as I’ve always eaten squash bread at my desk at work: this bread toasts beautifully. It needs no accompaniment, but a bit of sweet butter or cream cheese would taste awfully good on top.

I didn’t toast the squash bread this morning, though, just had a slice of it at my desk, with my second cup of coffee. It’s not exactly Macrina Bakery’s squash bread, but close enough.

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harvest squash bread

Mmmmm… squash bread.

Squash Harvest Bread
from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook
makes 2 loaves

1/2 cup walnut halves
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 cup pumpkin seeds (I used sunflower seeds, because we had them)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (or not)
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups roasted butternut squash purée (or plain canned pumpkin)
4 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two 9″x5″x3″ loaf pans.

Place the nuts and seeds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool, then chop medium fine. Turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees F.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Reserve 1/4 cup of the nuts and seeds for topping the loaves; stir the rest into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil and two types of sugar. Using the paddle attachment, mix at medium speed for 4 minutes. Add the squash and mix 2 minutes more. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate each egg before adding the next.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Alternately add small amounts of the flour mixture and buttermilk to the bowl, stirring just until flour is incorporated into batter.

Pour the batter into the oiled loaf pans. Sprinkle with the reserved nuts and seeds.

Bake the loaves for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in middle of loaf comes out dry. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes before turning loaves out onto a cooling rack. Then see how long you can wait, with that sweet spicy aroma filling your kitchen, before you slice into a loaf.


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