Buttermilk Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Muffins and the Melancholy of “Unfinished”

BEST buttermilk Pumpkin bread recipe{image via instagram. scroll down for THE GREATEST PUMPKIN BREAD RECIPE IN THE WORLD}

I started writing a blog post back in June, just before my birthday, just before the Summer Solstice, but I never finished it. To be more accurate, I barely even started it. The draft has been sitting in my queue of pending posts, has been hanging as a three-quarters (in)complete introductory paragraph to nothing with a sentence at the end that just stops at a single, solemn word:


melancholy

Just like that. No words after it. No punctuation. Unfinished business that leaves one hanging in a whisper of sadness…melancholy.

One would think that after weeks of watching that pathetic attempt at a blog post slowly sink lower and lower down the screen, I would just delete it, but delete it I could not. It wasn’t that I literally couldn’t – that I wasn’t in front of a computer 20 of 24 hours a day, that I didn’t have access to the Internet, that I was too busy working on something else.

No, almost every day, the opportunity to delete that post arose. Almost every day, I would open the post, full of a strange, sad optimism that I would finally be able to express the emotions that were so intense that they had held my writing captive. Almost every day, I would find myself wrestling with thoughts, clawing at words, desperate to grasp something before an invisible deadline passed. Almost every day, I found myself exhausted after two, three, five hours of feeling everything again, but expressing nothing. Again. Almost every day, after getting to melancholy and letting out a sigh of surrender, I could have clicked “delete.”

I could have deleted the post.

But I didn’t.

Because…I couldn’t.

And now a muffin that reaches for symbolism, because really, a muffin could be nothing more than a sad cupcake that was never finished with frosting.

I don’t remember from where nor from whom this recipe comes. The recipe is in my own handwriting on a ruled index card, a clear indication that I must have gotten it some time during college when I was pre-med and took classes that required memorization via flash cards.

The recipe calls for buttermilk, which is, a la Tom Jones, not unusual, but the method of alternating additions to the batter is what makes this the best, last recipe for Pumpkin Bread you’ll ever use. Yes, the original recipe is for a loaf of Pumpkin Bread, but that wouldn’t work for the theme of this post, now would it?

Buttermilk Pumpkin Bread {recipe}

(a.k.a “The Last Pumpkin Bread Recipe You’ll Ever Need”)

Makes one loaf or a dozen unfinished “cupcakes.” Recipe can be doubled, or even tripled, but you’re going to need a pretty big mixing bowl for that.

INGREDIENTS

1½ c. dark brown sugar
½ c. (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
2 large eggs
½ lb. (approximately 1 cup) pumpkin puree
1½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp salt
1/3 c. buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour a loaf pan or line muffin tin with paper liners.

Cream 1½ c. dark brown sugar and ½ c. (1 stick) softened unsalted butter. Add 2 large eggs and ½ lb. pumpkin puree. Combine well.

In a separate bowl, sift together 1½ c. all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, ¼ tsp baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. nutmeg, ½ tsp. allspice, and ½ tsp salt.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet pumpkin mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 1/3 c. buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Pour into loaf pan or divide into muffin tin.

Bake loaf pan for approximately 50 minutes or muffins for 25 minutes, checking with toothpick about 10 minutes before.

{post originally published October 2008}

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dave October 14, 2008 at 7:06 am

if words could wrap themselves around you, i hope you know that you are hugged as often as i can manage.

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2 Kiki Maraschino October 14, 2008 at 6:55 pm

You should go see “Joe’s Garage”. I think you would really relate to the song lyrics “A little green rosetta – it makes a muffin bettah”

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3 Mariko October 15, 2008 at 7:30 am

I actually like “cupcakes” without frosting. It keeps it clean.
I’m so glad I have this recipe, because I’ve been wrestling between the billion that have been posted lately.

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4 sarah j. gim October 15, 2008 at 10:49 pm

stuntman: they do wrap themselves around me. too tightly.

kiki: is it a movie?

mariko: i’m totally serious that this is THE ONE, especially if you like ginger and spice :)

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5 mysweetestday October 15, 2008 at 10:49 pm

i like the versatility of this recipe. yummy! thanks :)

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6 mysweetestday October 15, 2008 at 10:49 pm

i like the versatility of this recipe. yummy! thanks :)

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7 sarah j. gim October 15, 2008 at 11:07 pm

mysweetestday: now that i think about it, i guess it IS kind of versatile…muffin, bread, and with a sensational recipe for cream cheese frosting, could be a cupcake!

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8 Anonymous October 15, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Hope the melancholy doesn’t last too long for your mental health, but damn if it means we get more posts and recipes….

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9 sarah j. gim October 16, 2008 at 2:53 am

anonymous: oh trust me. given what i’ve gone through in the last 12 months, there is a LOT to come…

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10 creativeguy October 16, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Can u provide any vegeterian cake recipe also?

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11 sarah j. gim October 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm

creativeguy: hm…well, it’s the buttermilk that makes this recipe what it is, so as long as we can find a solid vegan substitute for it (as there are already good substitutes for eggs and butter….)

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12 Kiki Maraschino October 18, 2008 at 9:09 pm

It’s a musical in a small local theater based on Frank Zappa’s “Joes Garage” albums. You can search for the review on LAist and get ticket info. The entire last scene is a surreal bakery. I would imagine making a cream cheese light green-tinted rosetta for this recipe.

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13 glamah16 October 19, 2008 at 12:53 pm

My first visit. I clicked on to your signature with blog address. I just have to say I have no idea how you do it, and maintain a blog. Bot keep up the work and know its appreciated.Virtual hug.

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14 Shari@Whisk: a food blog October 20, 2008 at 12:03 am

Glad you got that post out there! Looks like a simple, but delicious recipe for pumpkin loaf/muffin/almostCupcake!

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15 sarah j. gim October 20, 2008 at 6:53 pm

@kiki: i like “surreal bakery” – we need to open one.

@glamah: i am nt quite sure, either, how i do it. probably with lots of hugs :)

@shari: thanks!

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16 sarah j. gim October 20, 2008 at 6:53 pm

@kiki: i like “surreal bakery” – we need to open one.

@glamah: i am nt quite sure, either, how i do it. probably with lots of hugs :)

@shari: thanks!

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17 Irene October 22, 2008 at 12:06 am

Oh, that looks really, really good. REALLY good. Like, I want to make it tonight.

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18 ila October 24, 2008 at 5:25 pm

omai, that looks delicious. if only my pumpkin allergies decided to say goodbye :(

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19 Bob Lagatta October 25, 2008 at 5:26 am

I don’t know on how I stumbled upon this cooking blog., All I know is that I’d better check out the archives for a good read. Ha-ha! Just droppin’ to say hi!
Oh. You might want to check this out: https://www.technocooks.com

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20 taste memory October 30, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Fall always does it for me……change of seasons has my thoughts swimming ~sending hugs ;-)

love the scent of pumpkins w. spices!

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21 HoneyB November 1, 2008 at 1:46 pm

I know where your coming from because I have a very similar post.

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22 Anonymous November 2, 2008 at 4:59 am

aa

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23 Anonymous November 2, 2008 at 4:59 am

aa

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24 katrina November 2, 2008 at 9:50 pm

You have the soul of a poet, Sarah! What writing!

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25 天然パーマンTENNEN PARMAN [from Japan] November 7, 2008 at 5:08 am

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I visited your site sometimes so far.
You have a cool site.
I linked your site in my blog.
I administer a blog talking about cooking.
Please link to my site in your ones if you like it.

http://impact-cook.blogspot.com/

thank you!

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26 geefunk November 8, 2008 at 4:42 pm

First comment – this recipe is just what I’ve been looking for. Been aching for some homemade pumpkin bread, but “cupcakes” sound even better! Thanks!

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27 Cara November 12, 2008 at 3:06 am

holy moly those look amazing!

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28 SCORPIO November 17, 2008 at 6:55 am

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29 Zesty Cook November 19, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Sarah – these are nothign short of amazing. Great work. Love the recipe.

zesty

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30 inland empire restaurant and food reviews December 1, 2008 at 8:59 pm

I love your Muffins!!

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31 Maya December 7, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Hope the melancholy is gone now :)

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32 Passionate Eater December 12, 2008 at 12:18 am

Just write “has turned into happiness…” right after melancholy and then hit the “Post” key! If you don’t finish, just end a post with ellipses, and that is all you need. :) I know what you mean about the never-finished posts that are sitting in the draft bucket.

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33 MarisaPaulCharlie December 18, 2008 at 6:33 pm

it is delicious, however, I added only ).75 the amount of sugar–still too sweet

and cardamom and cloves and MMMMMM….sooo good!!

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34 Hungry Dru December 19, 2008 at 6:35 am

Very hungry. Yum.

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35 deepdarkmonkey December 21, 2008 at 2:16 am

I love your brains. Please come back….

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36 Terry B December 25, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Sarah–I hope the melancholy that sparked this post has long since departed. Regarding the muffins being “unfinished” because they are unfrosted, I’m sure my brother and I frustrated my mother’s baking creativity because we preferred cakes and cupcakes without frosting.

And regarding unfinished posts, I’m always starting electronic files or scribbling notes on scraps of paper to spark some later post. For months, I carried a crumpled Post-It note in my pocket with just the cryptic message “more spinach?”

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37 Hungry Dru December 26, 2008 at 10:02 am

Congrats on getting the blog moved over nicely. Merry Christmas and a happy new year, Sarah!

Dru

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38 Hungry Dru December 26, 2008 at 10:02 am

Congrats on getting the blog moved over nicely. Merry Christmas and a happy new year, Sarah!

Dru

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39 The Peanut Butter Boy January 7, 2009 at 10:06 pm

That is an absolute wonderful looking pumpkin bread. I’d prefer mine in “cupcake” form, otherwise I’m afraid I’d mistake the loaf for a single serving. Love the color.

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40 The Peanut Butter Boy January 7, 2009 at 10:06 pm

That is an absolute wonderful looking pumpkin bread. I’d prefer mine in “cupcake” form, otherwise I’m afraid I’d mistake the loaf for a single serving. Love the color.

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41 krsuicide January 11, 2009 at 10:45 am
42 Adelante4 January 14, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Mmm dude those look amazing! Keep up the good blogging.

Memory Foam Mattress

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43 x January 20, 2009 at 1:55 am

made these into mini muffins on saturday night…ate them all by monday night. oops. SO GOOD, thanks for sharing!

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44 x January 20, 2009 at 1:55 am

made these into mini muffins on saturday night…ate them all by monday night. oops. SO GOOD, thanks for sharing!

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45 Sarah J. Gim May 13, 2009 at 11:42 pm

x: as much as i feel your pain (guilt?) about eating them all, i’m happy to hear that they turned out well! i always have this fear of sharing recipes, gushing about them, and, even if they’re “professional” ones from a cookbook, having someone else try them only to have them turn out terribly.

so, again, glad to hear. :D you have saved me from another therapy-requiring moment

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46 Danica October 24, 2009 at 11:48 am

So I made these muffins today after being disappointed with another pumpkin muffin recipe last week. The only thing I swapped out was cake flour instead of all purpose. And my verdict is…

HOLY SH*T THESE ARE AMAZING.

I think I might drizzle a tiny bit of icing on the top of these (powdered sugar, vanilla and milk mixture) but they are completely fine without anything.

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47 catty September 16, 2010 at 3:36 am

Buttermilk (and the alternating adding of it) does somehow make things moister and better and well, pumpkin (oops I did just type pumpking) just makes it all AWESOME. Nice post, I always hang in there for the posts where you actually write stuff!

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48 edwest216 October 19, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I found your recipe four pages in searching ‘buttermilk pumpkin bread recipe’ on Google, because the ingredients made more sense than any recipe I had found after searching for over an hour. It’s in the oven, so I’ll report back with results by tomorrow!

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49 TheDelicious October 19, 2014 at 5:26 pm

edwest216: PLEASE DO! always like to know how the recipe turns out for others and what kinds of tweaks may (or may not) have to be made! looking forward to hearing about it! (and fingers crossed that it’s amazing :D )

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50 edwest216 October 20, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Wow, this was indeed the greatest pumpkin bread recipe I’ve ever made/eaten! I followed the recipe, with these 4 modifications: 1) I used 1/4 cup + 2tbsp “light taste” extra virgin olive oil instead of 1/2 cup butter, a recommended sub from http://thepassionateolive.com/wp/baking-with-olive-oil-instead-of-butter/ 2) I was out of dark brown sugar, so I used light brown sugar. Gave it a lighter color than your pics, & possibly less flavor depth. I won’t know until the next attempt. 3) I used slightly less than 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg. The container I recently purchased is a tad too potent/spicy. 4) I added a splash(less than 1/4 tsp) of vanilla extract. I like to add a splash to several recipes where vanilla is absent, such as buttermilk pancakes. It adds a hint of a cake-like taste in my opinion.
Everyone loves this recipe! As others have stated, It’s a keeper!
Time to try your Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe!
Thank you so much!
-Ed K

51 Carol June 17, 2020 at 4:07 pm

Thanks for the recipe. I liked these muffins and thought they were moist. I decreased the sugar and fat in this recipe. I used 1/2C brown sugar and replaced 1/4C of butter with 1/4C of apple sauce. I also replaced 1C of all-purpose flour with 1C of whole wheat flour. I did add 1/2C of all-purpose flour, which has been really hard to find. I added 1/2 tsp of vanilla, which I made myself from Ah Cocoa’s (Playa del Carmen) Mexican vanilla beans and vodka. I have read many recipes for pumpkin pie spice and they are all different, some adding cloves. I also added 1/4 C of raisins after I had filled half of the muffins.

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