Don't skip this little-known step the next time you're baking.
Fall is around the corner, which means it’s pumpkin spiced-everything season. You can keep your pumpkin spiced lattes, and Oreo cookies, and cereal, and M&Ms, and donuts, and ice cream. Just leave me a loaf of pumpkin bread and I’ll be happy.
Pumpkin bread is my favorite quick bread, but I only bake it in the fall. You can never go wrong with a classic recipe, but one reason I love pumpkin bread so much is because pumpkin is a surprisingly good match for lots of flavors. Of course, you can add chopped nuts and raisins, but I’ve also made great loaves of pumpkin bread filled with dark chocolate chips, chunks of fresh apples, with coconut oil in the batter and coconut flakes on top. I’ve even made a delicious pumpkin-banana bread mash-up. You can go heavy on the spices, pour in some orange juice, or even add a shot of bourbon. You can use homemade pumpkin puree (though it’s not really worth the effort). You can top pumpkin bread with cream cheese frosting, or a glaze.
However you like to make pumpkin bread, there’s one small but important trick to making a loaf that’s moist and tender but still baked all the way through. Pumpkin bread, like most quick breads, is dense and heavy. Most recipes call for about an hour of baking time. Sometimes a quick bread will look golden brown around the sides and edges of the pan but it might not be completely baked on top. You want the bread to puff up and crack on top—this is a sign that it has cooked all the way through.
It’s easy enough to test for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer or cake tester (sometimes I use a paring knife) into the center of the loaf. But don’t make the mistake of only checking the inside of the bread. You should test the bread a second time—in the top of the loaf—to make sure it is completely baked through. Insert the skewer into the top half-inch of the loaf. If the skewer doesn’t come out cleanly, cover the top of the loaf with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning and return the pan to the oven to continue baking.
This 10-second step isn’t included in most recipes but it’s a foolproof way to prevent your pumpkin bread from being overly soft, and underbaked on top.