Photography by Heather Mildenstein, Hand modeling always by me
Several weeks ago I woke up with the OVERWHELMING desire to bake pumpkin bread. But I didn’t just want ANY pumpkin bread recipe, HEAVEN’S no, that would be reasonable. I wanted a pumpkin bread recipe WITH a streusel topping. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be THE BEST. I became a woman on a mission.
And really, this happens fairly often: I’ll decide I want to make or bake something and I quickly become obsessed. I prioritize looking at recipes or researching the project over all other work and obligations. So even though I kind of have quite a few other things I SHOULD be doing, or COULD be doing (like work that pays or preparing for the baby that’s going to come out and have nowhere to sleep, nothing to wear, and a very very disorganized home and mother) I decided to test some pumpkin bread recipes, because I didn’t have ONE that I was in love with. And because THE BABY NEEDED PUMPKIN BREAD. Pumpkin bread with streusel topping and lots of butter.
Honestly I wanted to test at least two more recipes before I shared my “round-up” but this is as far as I got. And really, after looking at SO MANY recipes, and having some amazing readers send me some, I realized that most are more or less the same. Hahaha. I know (trust me I KNOW) that with baking just a few tweaks can really change a recipe, so I didn’t discount the minuscule changes, but I instead chose to try 3 recipes that were fairly different.
And really, with baking, it comes down to personal preference more than anything. I liked all of the recipes I tried, and I can think of ways to make them even yummier next time to suit my personal preferences. But here’s something I’ve learned in my years of cooking and baking and trying new things and getting obsessed, and it might seem REALLY obvious, haha but I thought I’d share it anyway.
This is it: If you don’t really like the key ingredients in what you’re making, odds are you won’t magically like them in the recipe.
I’m a trusting person who tends to give the benefit of the doubt, I’m not super picky so when I saw something I didn’t LOVE in a recipe I used to think, “They’re probably right about this, who am I to question that?”
And sometimes you do HATE something then it magically appears in a different form and BOOM. You’re in love. But I came to this conclusion after making a particularly time-consuming pumpkin sage soup one year. It was supposed to be OUT OF THIS WORLD. I don’t really LOVE sage but I figured I just hadn’t tried hard enough. I’m pretty adept in the kitchen, and I made the soup just as it should be (using a real freaking pumpkin and it took forever). But after I made the soup I admitted to myself that no matter what I did or how great I did it, I was probably not going to magically like sage this one time, just because the recipe was so delicious.
I share this because if you’re looking at pumpkin bread recipe, and you see that it has a TON of nutmeg, and you think, “I’m not really into nutmeg…” well then cut that nutmeg in half. There’s just no reason not to. If the recipe doesn’t call for salt, and you know you like a bit of salt in all your baked goods, well for goodness sake add 1/2 tsp of salt. I find that amount is usually never too much.
I don’t like nuts in baked goods. I don’t like the way they change the texture of whatever it is I’m eating. So no matter how many times a recipe (or sweet Instagram comments or reviews) recommend putting nuts in something, I know that I’m going to like it better without the freaking nuts.
A lot of suggestions I got for pumpkin bread recipes were actually more like additions, such as add a yummy frosting, or poke holes in the top of the bread when it’s warm and pour butter with cinnamon and sugar in it. OBVIOUSLY THAT WOULD NOT BE BAD! I also saw a pumpkin bread recipe I really wanted to try with a cinnamon swirl in the middle of the loaf. But I tried to just focus on the actual bread, and then like I said, in the future I’ll probably add more stuff to it, because I for one love a bread that is basically only pretending to be bread and is more like a cake.
But back to the original goal, a pumpkin bread recipe with streusel topping. As I searched online I was delighted to see that one of the top ones to pop up was posted by my old college friend and brief Alison Show contributor Amy Scott, of Club Narwhal! Seriously, it’s a small world.
RECIPE #1 (pictured directly above)
I tried Amy’s recipe because I know that I can trust her and her taste. Plus it had a streusel topping! Plus Amy is a really really wonderful human and one of the best writers and smartest people I know.
MODIFICATIONS: I did not make the maple glaze that Amy recommends ONLY because I was trying to focus on the actual bread/loaf. But I’m sure it would be FANTASTIC. I also used the streusel topping from recipe #2, and not the one that Amy posted. I just liked the way streusel #2 looked better because it had oats in it. I used 1/4 cup oil instead of the two tablespoons it calls for because I could not emotionally handle only using two tablespoons of oil. Nom nom.
REVIEW: I LOVED this bread. In fact it was probably my favorite. At first I was horrified that it was adapted from a low-fat pumpkin bread recipe.HAHAHA! But Amy rectifies that by adding the streusel and a maple glaze, and I decided to try the recipe anyway because like I said, I love and trust Amy. This recipe uses less sugar, egg whites only, and not that much oil (but I added a touch more). It also uses way more pumpkin and spices than most of the other recipes I’ve seen, so I liked that a lot and wanted to try it.
My kids did not really LOVE this bread, and a few other people who tried it preferred recipe #2. I think that if you’re not a HUGE pumpkin fan, and you’re not that into pumpkin spices (nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and such) you’ll like one of the other two recipes better. But because it had more flavor and pumpkin, I liked this one a lot. I don’t think I’d made this recipe without the streusel though. You’re gonna want that streusel!
RECIPE #2 (pictured directly above, it’s the smaller loaf)
MODIFICATIONS: When I make this again I will melt the butter first. That is all. Just melt that butter mama.
REVIEW: This bread had a very mild pumpkin flavor and I loved the crumbly streusel topping SO MUCH. This recipe made enough streusel for this batch of bread and I still had enough topping left to use for my recipe #1 batch as well. The kids loved this bread and other people really liked it too. This would be a very safe bread to gift people because it doesn’t have anything that could possibly offend anyone. Haha. It is mild but super yummy.
You can for sure taste that there is more fat in this bread, Heather, the photographer said “It reminds me more of a donut?” Haha. And I think what she meant is there is more sugar, more eggs, and BUTTER. Go for it if you’re not SUPER into pumpkin, or the associated spices.
RECIPE #3 (pictured with my butterscotch & chocolate chip modification)
When I asked for suggestions for pumpkin bread recipes (after trying the first two) with an Instagram post this recipe was recommended by like, everyone. All Recipes THEMSELVES haha found my Instagram post and suggested I try it. So of course I did! It has over 6,000 reviews and 5 stars. I mean, who is gonna argue with that. Also I’d say that of the people who sent me their family recipes, this was quite similar to a lot of them.
BUT it did look like the overwhelming number of reviews suggested altering the recipe, so I followed the modifications from the top rated comment, because 1. I wanted to try applesauce in there, and 2. I wanted more pumpkin in there.
MODIFICATIONS: Check the top comment on there but here’s more or less what I did, 2.5 cups pumpkin, 1/2 cup apple sauce 1/2 cup oil, instead of water I did 1/2 cup milk and instead of measuring out all the spices I did 1.5 tsp pumpkin spice and 1 tsp cinnamon. I also cut the sugar down to 2 cups instead of 3.
REVIEW: This was also very good! But I didn’t think it was like SO MUCH BETTER than the other two recipes. Maybe it’s not fair because I didn’t make the recipe EXACTLY and I followed the top-rated modifications. So I don’t know. Mostly what I saw was that people gave it 5 star reviews after adding something to it, be it nuts, or chocolate chips, or dates, or WHATEVER.
So I decided to try it two ways.
I made one loaf with about 1 cup of butterscotch chips (an IG comment suggestion!) and 1 cup (ish?) of mini chocolate chips! It was a large loaf (I did two larger pans instead of 3 medium ones). The butterscotch and chocolate chips were SO GOOD. I would HIGHLY highly, HIGHLY recommend doing this. In fact if you did this AND a streusel topping people would probably anoint you a Pumpkin Bread High Priestess.
I made the second loaf plain, but I buttered the pan (I buttered and floured all the pans) but instead of using flour I used sugar. Someone told me this would like kind of caramelize the bread. And I’m so so sorry to disappoint but it basically did nothing. Haha. It was effective in keeping the bread from sticking to the pan, but you really couldn’t taste a difference. It was a nice thought though!
Anyway, we are back full circle to preference. I think ALMOST any pumpkin bread recipe is gonna taste good with a bunch of stuff on it, or IN it as long as you don’t over-bake it, over salt it, or just muck it up entirely. AND it’s gonna taste REALLY good if you smother it in butter. Like a little pumpkin lover.
YOU ARE WELCOME! Haha.
If I try any more I will update you! And feel free to keep sending suggestions! I’m not some MAJOR pro, but I’m a pretty good baker, who researches things thoroughly if not obsessively, and these are just my thoughts! But like I said, if you go and look at the recipe breakdown, very often the recipes are super similar. And it’s going to come down to making sure you feature the spices, toppings and fillings you LOVE BEST!
Which one do you think you’ll try?
You can’t go wrong. Really, you just can’t.