Sisterly love survives squashed pumpkin
When my sister arrives, my kitchen is warm with heat from an afternoon spent baking brioche.
Daphne’s driven most of a day to get here and, after a text to say she’s parked, when I go outside to help carry in her belongings, she hands me a bag of white cherries, an impulse purchase made at a fruit market found along the way.
“For sangria!” she says.
Knowing what she must have paid for cherries this late in the season, I don’t have the heart to tell her they will be blue and fuzzy by morning.
They are blue and fuzzy by morning.
But, Daphne’s here. That’s all that matters.
We will spend the next week visiting simple pleasures, remembering our sister-ness and selves, which have become vague over the three years since she moved a province away.
So, the next day, while sitting at my kitchen island, eating bacon brioche with butternut-squash soup — and flipping through the pages of a new cookbook — Daphne and I find a recipe.
Or, rather, we find the recipe’s title and picture.
At this point, I haven’t yet read the ingredients and directions for this pumpkin-bread pudding, which has caught our attention and caused our imaginations to project future memories onto the screens of our minds.
In ignorance, I imagine baking a loaf of pumpkin bread, slicing the bread into cubes, soaking the cubes in cream and eggs and more pumpkin and spices and baking and serving it with cinnamon whipped cream.
Until, that is, I read closer.
“You do want to leave the house sometime today or tomorrow, don’t you?” I point out, suddenly realizing I’m looking at three recipes in one and haven’t all the ingredients yet for any.
“Yes, but loo-ook!” Daphne says, holding up the picture.
She has a point.
The pictured pudding is spice-coloured and sticky with apple caramel. Speckled with pumpkin seeds.
One problem: I’m still reading and this recipe, which covers three pages and employs more butterfat and egg yolks than I am accustomed to using, does not fit into my idea of simple pleasures.
We leave it at a maybe and, when we fetch groceries later, I reach past the whole pumpkins for an easier-to-use can of pumpkin puree.
A moment later, I drop it on the floor — accidentally, but twice.
So, by the time I get it to the checkout counter, it’s dented and bloated and when Chefhusband sees it, he mutters something about botulism and refuses to have anything to do with it.
I take it as a sign and make a plum platz instead.
The can, however, sits on my countertop for two more weeks, long after Daphne has gone.
At the very least, I think, I should make pumpkin bread.
So, with my stand mixer and dough hook at the ready, I pierce the can and listen carefully for the warning hiss of escaping toxins.
Naturally, this is when I discover my pumpkin puree is, in fact, pumpkin-pie filling.
So, I do what every baker does with accidental ingredients — I improvise.
Later, I bake the leftovers into a simple pudding, wishing the whole time my sister was still here to share it.
1/2 cup warm milk
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1 cup pumpkin pie filling
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 cups bread flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, soften yeast in milk. Add pumpkin and oil; combine. Whisk together salt and flour. Add in fourths to pumpkin mixture.
Knead on medium speed for eight minutes to form a soft, slightly sticky, dough.
Transfer dough into an oiled bowl, turning once to coat entirely. Cover with a lint-free towel.
Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour.
Deflate and turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a loaf and place in well-greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise until almost doubled.
Bake at 375 F for 55 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 190 F. Remove bread from pan to cool.
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance.