Falling for Pumpkin

As if suddenly freed from the restraints of summer’s final days, autumn’s official first day saw me clamoring back into the kitchen, scheming up new ways to reintroduce my favorite orange gourd once back into my diet. Pumpkin is just one of those endlessly versatile ingredients that can be prepared any way you can imagine- Be it sweet or savory, salty or sour, crunchy or creamy- And still never get old. It may be hard not to rely on this multifaceted squash for cooking inspiration in the days to come, being such a perfect flavor for the fresh season and all, but I’m not holding back today, not when the leaves are turning and the air itself carries the essence of fall!

If there were anything more cozy than a pumpkin dish for an unexpectedly chilly day, it would definitely be a pumpkin bread. But this time, my sweet tooth was no where to be found, relenting to the otherwise quiet desire for something a bit more savory. No need to compromise though, a yeasted pumpkin bread that leaned more on salt than sugar fits the bill just fine.

Lightly spiced with a dash of nutmeg and a pinch of sage, this bright orange bread is in truth an attempt at focaccia gone awry, but I prefer to think of it merely as a flat bread, better suited to accompany a nice warm soup anyway, if you ask me. While it would be delicious by itself, the topping of soft caramelized onions is what makes this otherwise simple bread stand out, putting it heads and shoulders above any other plain pumpkin loaf. There is one problem with it though- It seems to magically disappear if you leave it on the counter for a day!

Pumpkin Flat Bread with Caramelized Onions

3/4 Cup Warm Water (Between 100 and 110 Degrees)
1 Teaspoon Agave Nectar
1 0.6-Ounce Cube Fresh yeast
3 Cups White Whole Wheat flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Chopped Dried Sage
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 15-Ounce Can Pumpkin Puree

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Medium Yellow Onions, Thinly Sliced
Baking Soda

In a small bowl, stir together the warm water and agave, and crumble in the fresh yeast. Stir to combine, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Sift the flour into your stand mixer, along with the salt, nutmeg, and sage, and mix briefly before pouring in the yeast mixture. Install the dough hook attachment before proceeding, as things may get a bit sticky from here on in. Add in the pumpkin puree and olive oil, and let the mixer slowly incorporate these wet ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until there are no remaining patches of dry flour. Continue running the machine, allowing it to kneed the dough for about 10 minutes. It should still be rather wet and sticky, but much smoother than before. Transfer the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight, or about 8 – 10 hours.

In the morning, take the bowl of out the fridge to let it come to room temperature while you deal with the topping. Peel and cut the onions in half, from pole to pole, and slice them thinly. Place a pan over moderate heat and pour in the oil. Add the onions, followed by a pinch of both salt and pepper, and just the tiniest dash of baking soda. (This helps the caramelizing process move a bit faster- You can leave it out if you’d prefer, but you shouldn’t taste it in the end.) Stirring every couple of minutes, cook the onions until the reach a light brown hue, but be careful not to take them too dark, as they’ll continue to cook in the oven. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.

Grease a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan and set aside.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and use your fingers to press it out into more or less of a rectangle. Fold it over itself like a letter, press firmly, and turn it. Repeat this a few times, until the surface seems smooth. Transfer the rectangle into your prepared pan, and once again use your fingers to coax it out into the corners. It may seem like not enough dough, but it will cover the pan with a bit of persuasion. Let rise at room temperature for about one hour.

Meanwhile, begin preheating your oven to 375 degrees. When the dough seems almost ready, poke it like you would a focaccia to give it a slightly bumpy-looking surface. Spoon the onions evenly over the top.

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the loaf is nicely browned on the bottom (remove the bread from the oven and use oven mits to peek underneath, being very careful not to burn yourself of course!) Depending on how dark you cooked you oven, you may wish to tent the loaf with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes to prevent them from burning. Let cool on a wire rack.

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