Are you sick of squash yet? Don’t be! It’s only the end of October! There are so many delicious orange months to go, so hang on to your hubbards because I’ve got a feeling I won’t be stopping with the recipes for using various and sundry winter squash any time soon! I also promised myself I wasn’t going to post any more sweets for a while – I’m trying to live by example here and keep cutting back on my sugar intake. But, this sweet bread is simply too delicious not to run around telling everyone excitedly about it. I brought it in to my office and after a bite, a friend cried “I need to make this. This recipe is on your site, right?” So, now it is. As Julia Child proclaimed, “Moderations. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.” So, bake this bread, savor a slice then bring it to work and make new friends! Or if you work at home, well, then I guess it’s the perfect excuse to invite people over for a cup of coffee or tea.
I didn’t actually mean to bake squash bread. Especially not on Monday when I was completely exhausted and jet lagged from a red-eye flight back from Seattle. But, at 6:30pm as I was struggling to keep my eyes awake, I noticed a kabocha squash in the pantry that had gone and developed icky spots, meaning it required immediate attention. In my crazed, lack of sleep stupor, somehow it seemed to me that obviously the best course of action – and perhaps the only way to keep myself awake until 8:30pm which was when I had told myself I was allowed to go to bed – was to try making up a bread recipe with it. So, into the oven it went for a little roasting. Is there such a disorder as sleep-baking?
Now, I don’t know if this is completely psychosomatic, but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve developed a headache every time I eat something with a lot of cinnamon. That seems really strange, right? So, I’m inclined to think it’s all in my head. But, I’m also inclined to avoid cinnamon for the moment, which was potentially problematic since it’s usually one of the main flavors in pumpkin bread, and therefore in other winter squash breads. I started to think about what other flavors might round out a sweet aromatic loaf, and the answer that immediately came was brown butter. It’s almost too obvious. The nutty, caramelly flavor and smell of browned butter beautifully complements squash and adds a wonderful round richness. Then, just a little dash of nutmeg is all it needed for a hint of spicy aroma.
But, I didn’t manage to stop with brown butter just in the bread. Oh no. After making the first batch, it had simply smelled far too enticing. I needed to brown more butter! Then I considered drinking it. But, even half asleep I realized that that was probably a bad choice. Brown butter icing, on the other hand. That was a very, very good choice.
Brown Butter Kabocha or Buuternut Squash Bread (with brown butter icing) (makes 2 loaves)
- 1 medium winter squash (such as butternut or kabocha) (or 2 cups pumpkin puree)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferrably freshly ground)
- Heat your oven to 425F. Cut the squash in half (leave the seeds in for now) put them in a baking pan, cover them with aluminum foil and roast for about an hour until soft and easily pierced with a fork.
- Allow the squash to cool enough that you can scoop out the seeds (discard them, or if you want you can clean them and roast them, yum yum). Then scoop out the squash flesh into bowl. Puree the squash in a food processor, with a handheld blender thingy, or by passing it through a food mill. Take out 2 cups of the squash and save the rest for something else.
- Preheat your oven to 350F, and grease two (9 inch) loaf pans.
- In a large frying pan, heat the butter over medium high heat. It will melt first, and then start to foam. Turn the heat down to medium. Stir the melted butter almost constantly, scraping any browning bits from the bottom of the pan. When the butter has turned a brown color and smells rich and nutty, remove it from the heat. (This should take about 7 minutes). Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the eggs and sugars on high speed for several minutes, until the color has lightened (random side note: in Norwegian this is called an “eggedosis”). Scrape in the browned butter and beat for another couple of minutes, until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the pureed squash to the wet ingredients and beat until smooth and uniformly mixed in.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg. Add this to the wet ingredients, and mix on low until fully incorporated.
- Divide the batter evenly into the 2 prepared loaf pans and bake for about 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Take the bread out of the loaf pans and allow to cool completely before glazing.
Brown butter icing:
- 5 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup or so of confectioner’s sugar
- Brown the butter in a pan, just as described in step 2 for the bread (it may take a little less time because there’s less butter though) and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Scrape the butter into a mixing bowl.
- Sift the confectioner’s sugar to remove lumps. Then whisk the vanilla into the butter. Next, whisk in confectioner’s sugar until your reach a spreadable consistency.
- Spread the icing onto the loaves, and allow to set for about 30 minutes before slicing.