Pumpkin Bread with Golden Raisins and Dried Cranberries

Just when I thought this week was going to be easy to write up about, the desire to procrastinate was incredibly strong.

Today felt like as if everyone I ran into was on edge. It was as if the immense emotion from the September 11th anniversary had carried on from the weekend and took a giant dump on my Tuesday. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start my work week. Nor did it set me in the right mood to start writing up about the friends I love.

But promises are well…promises, and instead of procrastinating by creeping on Facebook and Twitter (hey, at least I admit it), and dreaming up all of the things I’d love to buy on Amazon….

Sorry, I got distracted again, by boots.

I have a problem.

Anyway, let me tell you about my best friend E.

E and I met in sophomore year of undergrad at polo team tryouts.  I can’t say I really remember my first impression (it was over 10 years ago), as most of the afternoon was filled with anxiety; wanting to know if I had made the cut.  However, I do remember after a couple of practices, scrubbing our tack with Murphy’s Oil Soap and talking about our individual plans for the night, that she was someone that I wanted to hang out with.  Immediately.

E is a person that will always put you at ease.  Extremely open and always one to smile at a joke that may not be the funniest, she always makes you feel comfortable with who you are.  She was a great friend to have at the start of my undergrad career because I was at that age where I was trying to figure out that very exact thing.

I came from an almost all-white town in suburbia, where I spent every afternoon at an equestrian facility.  There, along with two other girls, we practically ran the place.  And we knew it.  Suffice it to say, it was not a childhood experience I think I’d want for my future daughter.  The three of us grew up a little too fast, and got away with a little too much.

I am so grateful I at 18 I at least had the common sense to a giant state school.

Coming out of high school I was a selfish, arrogant, and somewhat slutty (I said it) “big fish” in the equestrian facility pond.  I desperately needed to be “thrown to the sharks.”

For those who had the small college experience, freshman year at a school that has on average 30,000 people walking around on campus everyday, is a bit overwhelming.  I thought I would love molding myself into who I wanted to be.  I believed that I could make myself queen of whatever flock I chose, and that I didn’t need the equestrian community anymore.

I got so lost.

During freshman orientation, I chose to live in the known “diversity dorm,” on campus because I thought being half-asian was super ethnic and that would be my launching pad for queen.

It’s not.

I went from picking up a smoking habit of Marlboro Ultra Menthol Lights (so gross), finding myself at frat house basement parties, betting on who’s house shirt I could steal as a souvenir (who. was. I?!?), and keeping lookout as one of my hall-mates stole a giant vat of ice cream from the dining hall, to running…Directly back to another equestrian facility.

When I saw the flyer posted randomly in the campus center, next to a Cannabis Club meeting time (oh yes), at first I dismissed the idea of trying out.  I had never played polo before, so why bother.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

And I’m thankful I did.  Because instead of being caught up in the drama of “women hating women,” I found a truly great friend.

One of the best memories I have is when I showed up to her dorm room for a Halloween party.  I arrived in jeans and a t-shirt.  Maybe flip flops?  She was horrified.  How did I not know what Halloween meant in “girl world?”

In a whirlwind of clothes and face paint, she dressed me in jeans spray painted with dashes of gold, a mesh shirt (it’s as bad as it sounds), and drew a lunar eclipse on my forehead.  She wore something of the like, and drew a sun on her forehead.  How we explained that our “costumes” went together, I can’t remember.  And I’m kind of glad I don’t!

With that memory in mind, and in celebration of her recent birthday (in which she insists every year she’s “25”), I made her pumpkin bread.  If I could write a crash-test guide on E, the first page would list three things: She loves the color orange, pumpkin is her favorite type of pie, and she hates, hates nuts in brownies.

Thankfully pumpkin bread is (theoretically) orange and in this version, without nuts.  I love stuffing breads like banana or zucchini with as many dried fruits as possible.  And in this loaf, I added handfuls of golden raisins and dried cranberries.  Having them plump up, and enveloped by a spice filled batter, makes it a quintessential fall treat.  Perfect with a mug of earl grey tea, sitting with your legs curled up under yourself, and maybe with a cat in your lap, it’s a slice that I especially love to have on a rainy September afternoon.  With E’s birthday being yesterday, I can only hope that this will make the perfect belated birthday gift.

Adapted from Orangette

Makes 2 Loaves (Recipe Can Be Easily Halved)

Ingredients

2 cups of pumpkin puree

1 cup of olive oil

4 egg whites

Half cup of water

3 cups of white whole wheat flour (if you only have all purpose flour, feel free to use it)

One and a half cups of sugar (this yields a not so sweet bread, if you like a very sweet pumpkin bread, go with 2 cups)

2 teaspoons of baking soda

Half teaspoon of salt

Half teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Three quarters of a cup of dried cranberries (I love a lot of “things” in my cake, so if you’d like it to be less intense, use less)

Three quarters of a cup of golden raisins

Equipment

1 large mixing bowl

1 medium mixing bowl

A whisk

A spatula

A loaf pan (I used a 9×5 pan) (Two if you’re lucky to have them around and can bake both loaves at the same time)

Parchment paper (optional) or butter and flour to coat your loaf pan (or even baking spray)

Cooling rack (if you have one)

Move the oven rack to the middle position in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line the loaf pan with parchment paper, or butter and flour the pan, or coat the pan well with baking spray. I prefer parchment paper because I’m incredibly lazy and can’t bear the thought of cleaning another dish after baking.

Add the pumpkin puree, olive oil, water, and egg whites to your large mixing bowl. Mix till combined. At first it’ll look like an oily mess, but keep going, and it’ll all incorporate together.

In the medium mixing bowl, add the white whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk till combined.

Add the dried cranberries and golden raisins to the wet mixture. Stir till just combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in multiple increments, adding a bit of dry to the wet, stirring till just combined, then adding more dry to wet, until everything is just combined.

With you spatula, scrape the bottom of the bowl, folding from the bottom up to the top, making sure that everything is combined.

Split your batter into two loaf pans, or, split the batter in half, and work on the first loaf.

Throw the loaf pan(s) into the oven. Bake 50 – 60 minutes or until a cake tester (like a toothpick) pulls out clean from the center of the loaf.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before taking it out of the pan to cool on a cooling rack (if you have one).

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