Recently, as I have seen friends and family from back home post pictures of leaves changing colors, fall activities, and Thanksgiving preparations, I have felt a few pangs of “fall-sickness” – rather like homesickness, but missing fall. Fall is one of my favorite seasons, which apple-picking and pumpkin-carving, hot cider and fires in the fireplace, cooking and Thanksgiving. I love the crisp, sunny fall days that are perfect for going for a walk to enjoy the trees ablaze with fiery colors or a long horseback ride across freshly-harvested corn fields.
One of my favorite things about fall is cooking. During the fall, it seems like everything is either apple or pumpkin – I love making pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds, dried apples, apple muffins, apple butter, fresh apple sauce…
Here in Colombia, they don’t have pumpkin (gasp!). They have several types of squashes that are similar, but not exactly the same. However, I was not about to let that get in my way. I decided to substitute ahuyama, a large pumpkin-looking squash for pumpkin, and to attempt to make pumpkin bread.
I saw a few of challenges: 1) I had only ever used canned pumpkin in the United States, 2) ahuyama has a different consistency and does not have as strong as a flavor, and 3) after going to 5 stores, I came to acknowledge the fact that ground cloves do not exist here.
Not to be daunted, I purchased a few large pieces of ahuyama (which I believe were left over from Halloween) and whole cloves from the local Surtifruver, and got to work.
I chopped up the ahuyama in manageable pieces and set it on a pan with about a 1/4 an inch of water on the bottom of the pan. I placed it in my mini-oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. When tender, I cut away the peel and pureed it in my blender. I ended up with around 10 cups of ahuyama puree – I was really hoping it worked for my recipes! I froze the majority of the puree for further use, and set a couple cups aside. I realized I would have to modify my recipe somewhat, since the ahuyama puree was much thinner than pumpkin, and so I added more flour than I usually do when I make pumpkin bread.
Next, I addressed the cloves problem. I tried to google “how to grind cloves” (which also gave me some disturbing results), but all the ways people suggested were with spice grinders or coffee grinders – neither of which I have. I decided to attempt it myself. First, I spread the cloves out on a baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for around ten minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. When they were fragrant and started popping, I took them out and put them in a coffee filter. I placed the coffee filter full of cloves on a cutting board, and started rolling and pounding them with a mini-rolling pin. It actually worked! Ever so often, I sifted the ground cloves, and returned the larger pieces to the coffee filter.
I finally made the bread – and it turned out amazing!!! Baking from scratch had definitely taken on a new meaning, but it was worth it! I ended up with two loaves of delicious ahuyama bread that I shared with my security guards, next-door neighbors, coworkers at the Ministry of Education, and Leito.
Makes 2 loaves of bread
2 cups ahuyama puree
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9×5 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together the ahuyama, oil, sugar, and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the loaf should spring back when lightly pressed.