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

buttermilk pumpkin bread{image via instagram}

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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  • dave

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

  • Kiki Maraschino

    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”

  • Mariko

    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.

  • sarah j. gim

    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 :)

  • mysweetestday

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

  • mysweetestday

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

  • sarah j. gim

    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!

  • Anonymous

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

  • sarah j. gim

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

  • creativeguy

    Can u provide any vegeterian cake recipe also?

  • sarah j. gim

    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….)

  • Kiki Maraschino

    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.

  • glamah16

    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.

  • Shari@Whisk: a food blog

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

  • sarah j. gim

    @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!

  • sarah j. gim

    @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!

  • Irene

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

  • ila

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

  • Bob Lagatta

    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

  • taste memory

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

    love the scent of pumpkins w. spices!

  • HoneyB

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

  • Anonymous

    aa

  • Anonymous

    aa

  • katrina

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

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  • geefunk

    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!

  • Cara

    holy moly those look amazing!

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  • Zesty Cook

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

    zesty

  • inland empire restaurant and food reviews

    I love your Muffins!!

  • Maya

    Hope the melancholy is gone now :)

  • Passionate Eater

    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.

  • MarisaPaulCharlie

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

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

  • Hungry Dru

    Very hungry. Yum.

  • deepdarkmonkey

    I love your brains. Please come back….

  • Terry B

    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?”

  • Hungry Dru

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

    Dru

  • Hungry Dru

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

    Dru

  • The Peanut Butter Boy

    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.

  • The Peanut Butter Boy

    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.

  • krsuicide
  • Adelante4

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

    Memory Foam Mattress

  • x

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

  • x

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

  • http://www.thedeliciouslife.com Sarah J. Gim

    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

  • Danica

    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.

  • http://www.thecattylife.com catty

    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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