Pumpkin Bread Troubleshooting


Did you know that International Pumpkin Day falls on October 26th? That’s not so far away, and what better way to celebrate than to bake yourself some fantastic pumpkin bread. With back to school behind us, and the loom of fall in the air – baking pumpkin bread is a great way to enhance the season.

Pumpkin bread is a quick bread, some will call it a cake, and while fairly simple and straightforward there are some questions and/or problems that you might run into along your pumpkin bread-making way. Adding too much pumpkin puree can cause under baking in the center of your bread, over mixing can cause deflation and these are just a few problems that this article is going to cover as much as where and how to store, decorating tips, add-ons, and more. 

What is a Quick Bread? 

Quick bread is leavened with baking powder or baking soda and provides relatively consistent results and doesn’t require as much time, or temperature management as yeast or sourdough bread. While less time-consuming and finicky, it doesn’t necessarily mean a quick bread, particularly a pumpkin (or any quick bread calling for a fruit or veggie ingredient) has zero quirks. It definitely has quirks, and when you’re really into baking there’s no harm in knowing the ins and outs of what to avoid and how to ensure optimal finished results – the perfect pumpkin bread. 

In an ideal world, we bake and our creations come out excellent each and every time. Even a seasoned baker is likely to run into the occasional inconsistency, right? Well, even if not, when you’re dabbling in differing recipes and types of bread, you might possibly hit a few small snags that are easily overcome. 

One tiny quirk regarding quick bread is its preparation. Not a bigging, just that most if not all recipes will call for preparing the wet and dry ingredients separately, and then combining them slowly.

Is a crack in my pumpkin bread a bad sign? No

Let’s Talk Shape

A good-looking pumpkin bread, once baked, will have puffed up and have a nice crack running along the top. Side note, this particular look also signifies that the pumpkin bread has been cooked all the way through. 

If you’re not getting this “look” for your pumpkin bread, you may want to try one of two things or even a combination of the two:

  1. Lower the temperature and allow for a little more cooking time as the center of the pumpkin bread tends to fall behind while baking, compared to the sides.
  2. Pitch a loose tent of aluminum foil over the pumpkin bread, which will slow down the browning process and avoid burning the top while the center catches up in baking.

Adding to much pumpkin puree can ruin your pampkin bread

Adding too much pumpkin puree, I know it’s tempting especially if you’re using the homemade version rather than a can (and a lot of us really love that intense spiced pumpkin flavor), may also cause under-baking in the center of your pumpkin bread. This is because there just isn’t enough flour to absorb all the moisture from the puree. Another reason could be your baking pan is simply the wrong size. It’s always a good idea to follow the suggestions given in the recipe you’re following.

How do you get your pumpkin bread to be moist and tender?

There is more to that first bite into a great slice of pumpkin bread than just the flavor (although flavor really does have a lot to do with it when it comes to pumpkin bread in particular), moisture, tenderness, and overall texture have a good bit to do with it too. 

First and foremost (and this may seem redundant because it’s mentioned a lot) follow the recipe. The recipe takes into account the flour to moisture ratio, even if it gives a range such as 1 to 1½ cups of puree. Going below or above the suggested amounts will inevitably alter the results from too dry and lacking flavor to too mushy and undercooked. That being said, if you’re looking for a loaf of moist pumpkin bread and the recipe suggests a range of puree, add the max. This will boost the moisture and the flavor. Sticking with the range suggested also ensures you avoid a gummy bottom on your pumpkin bread and that it isn’t ultimately dense.

Let’s not forget about the tenderness of your pumpkin bread. Now, you may not get that fluffy texture that results from a yeasted bread, you can certainly get a nice light crumb. The fat, whether oil, butter, or other fat, combined with sugar catches air that will swell during baking making the pumpkin light and tender. 

If you want to avoid deflation in your pumpkin bread, it’s important to keep in mind, not to over mix. Mix either using a mixer on the lowest setting or by hand, only up to the moment the ingredients are well blended. It’s also important not to overfill your baking pan. If the batter ends up coming up to the top of the pan, it nevertheless needs to continue to rise and will eventually collapse. 

Quick Tips for Pumpkin Bread
IssueSolution
Tough TextureOnce the wet and dry ingredients have been combined, mix only until the dry stuff is moistened – getting out all the lumps results in a tough texture with peaks and holes in the pumpkin bread.
How to get a greater riseWhen greasing your baking pan, grease only the bottom and tops half an inch around the sides. Doing this allows the loaf to achieve a greater height.
Too Much Fat, Leavening & SugarUsing too much fat and leavening results in a much more coarse texture, along with a soapy taste from baking soda, and more bitter from baking powder. Using too much sugar will lead to a darker, thicker crust on your pumpkin bread.
Soggy & SinkingA few things can lead to these results – mainly, more wet ingredients than were called for, letting the batter sit for too long, not enough baking powder/soda, or it simply wasn’t baked long enough.
CracksThis, as already mentioned, is not a problem. It is an indication that the pumpkin bread has been thoroughly baked.
Browning too FastIt’s always a good practice to check your pumpkin bread 10 to 15 minutes before it’s done with a toothpick. If it’s already quite brown and not cooked through, tent some aluminum foil over it for the last portion of baking.
Avoid CrumblingStave off cutting into your pumpkin bread until it’s cooled down. I know it’s tempting, but you’ll find the results a lot less crumbly if you allow the pumpkin bread to cool off completely

Toppings & Add-Ins for your pampkin bread

Pumpkin bread is amazing on its own, no word of a lie. You can, however, totally “up” your pumpkin bread game by either throwing in a few add-ins and even turning it into a delectable dessert by adding a topping. 

Toppings

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for frosting, icing, or any kind of sugary topping on any kind of cake or quick bread. 

Whether using your favorite buttercream frosting, or a cream cheese frosting, a simple royal icing, or a shiny spiced glazed – all would be a welcome and delicious option to decorate and enhance your pumpkin bread with. 

The toppings on pumpkin bread aren’t, however, limited to sugary stuff, nuts and seeds are an excellent option and totally worth it. If you want to continue with the sweet theme, candied nuts would be oh-so-good! 

 Another sweet topping (are your teeth starting to ache?) is a nice streusel or crumble that makes for a loaf of great-tasting pumpkin bread, as well as quite pretty.

Add-Ins

There are a lot of options when it comes to some of the additional ingredients you can throw into a pumpkin bread batter. Depends on whether you’re adding add-ins for texture, flavor, or both.

Here’s a great list of yummy ideas, from nice and sweet to wonderfully crunchy:

  • Chocolate chips – kid-friendly favorite
  • White chocolate chips – adult-friendly favorite
  • Nuts – walnut and pecan are quite nice
  • Seeds – an obvious choice would be pumpkin seeds, but sunflower seeds are always nice, while chia and flax are a great nutritionally boosting option
  • Cream cheese-filled – A definite game-changer, taking your pumpkin bread from great to whoa!
  • Banana – not necessarily an add-in, but a pumpkin and banana combination is quite spectacular
  • Bourbon – yes, bourbon. 

As you can see, there are quite a few ingredients you can add to your pumpkin bread, all depending on what you like and how adventurous you’re feeling.

Where should I store my pumpkin bread?

Knowing how to store your pumpkin bread is just as important as knowing how to make it – you don’t want all that hard work to go to waste, after all.  

The basic rule of thumb is you can store your pumpkin bread at room temperature, wrapped, for up to 3 days. If the recipe you used called for any dairy ingredients, it’s best to store your pumpkin bread in the refrigerator.  

In order to retain the moisture, flavor, and texture of your pumpkin bread there are a few key things to keep in mind. Before anything else, you’ll want to make sure your pumpkin bread has cooled off completely, ideally on a wire cooling rack. This allows maximum moisture release and avoids wet pumpkin bread once wrapped. Even just a little bit of heat from the pumpkin bread will result in a soggier texture. 

Another good tip is to line the airtight container or Ziploc storage bag you’re using with a paper towel. The paper towel absorbs any surplus moisture, ensuring you don’t bite into soggy pumpkin bread.

Want to Freeze your Pumpkin Bread? Here’s How.

If you’re making in bulk, or you’re just plain trying to avoid eating the whole batch in less than three days, there’s always freezing. While it won’t stop you from eating them all, it may slow down the process. 

If you’re freezing your loaf whole ideally, you’ll want to firmly wrap your pumpkin bread in plastic wrap. Once snug as a bug in plastic, wrap it in aluminum foil, put it in a freezer bag or air-tight container, and freeze for a maximum of three months. If you want to pre-slice, on the other hand, you can flash freeze. Place your slices of pumpkin bread on a baking sheet and freeze. Once they’re frozen, individually wrap them in plastic wrap. Again, they can keep this way in the freezer for up to three months.

(TIP: Don’t forget to date your frozen pumpkin bread, you certainly don’t want any of it going to waste).

When you’re ready to eat that delicious pumpkin bread, take it out of the freeze and let it thaw out at room temperature. If you want it warm, you can reheat it in the oven at 300F (000C) for 10 to 15 minutes. 

That’s if folks, the ins, and outs, the dos and don’ts of troubleshooting your pumpkin bread.

Amit

Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

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