Published September 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
To rescue this bread from mediocrity, start by taking the canned flavor out of the pumpkin.
Pumpkin bread is boring. No loaf is remarkably bad, but none is remarkably good. They’re all just fine.
We wanted a bread that had just the right texture—neither too dense nor too cakey—and a rich pumpkin flavor that was properly tempered with sweetness and gently enhanced rather than obscured by spices.
Our first task was improving the flavor of canned pumpkin puree, which tasted raw. So why not cook it? We dumped a can of puree into a saucepan and stirred it over medium heat until it just barely began to caramelize. The pumpkin bread made with this puree tasted full and rich rather than raw or metallic.
The only problem was that by cooking the puree, we had driven off some of the moisture and increased its sweetness, which threw off the balance of flavors. Adding buttermilk solved the dryness problem, and incorporating cream cheese into the mix regained some of the tanginess that the sweetness was overpowering. Since we had to melt the cream cheese, we just added it into the pan of hot puree, achieving the dual goals of melting it and cooling the puree. Once the puree was cool, we were able to use the pot as the mixing bowl and avoid dirtying another dish.
For textural contrast, we included toasted walnuts and a simple streusel topping, which gave the perfect amount of sweet crunch to each slice. As a bonus, the topping prevented the surface of the loaf from getting soggy when stored overnight, so our bread was just as delicious the next day.list of recipes