...pumpkin bread is about as quintessentially American as it gets.
At this time of year I have an atavistic desire to bake, and that yearning often manifests as pumpkin bread. Although there are few recipes easier, and scores of variations available just a mouse click away, I find myself reaching for New West Cuisine; Fresh Recipes from the Rocky Mountains, a cookbook I did with photographer Audrey Hall and Chef Amy Jo Sheppard, for the time-tested version from the Log Cabin Cafe in Montana.
A lesson in simplicity, the batter can be mixed in one bowl in about 5 minutes. It’s placed into two oiled and floured loaf pans, baked for 50 or 60 minutes and served plain, (though the Cafe serves it grilled, with Montana honey on the side).
The setting no doubt adds flavor. The Log Cabin Cafe is a an 80-year-old log cabin at the base of ridiculously vertiginous mountains; it lies one mile from the most remote entrance to Yellowstone National Park. In winter, the town of Silver Gate becomes almost completely cut off. The only way to reach it is a long, often harrowing drive through the snowy Park or ten miles by snowmobile to a parked car, (which hopefully will start; the average winter low is 5 degrees…). The cafe opens for the season on May 1st, when the mountain passes are still snowed over and wildlife is everywhere — deer, elk, bighorn sheep, bears, coyotes, eagles, even wolves. As the days lengthen, the animals move up higher into the mountains and the tourist traffic picks up, the cafe and its log cabin accommodations stay busy from dawn to dusk.
Although the cafe is locally famous for rainbow trout dinners and breakfast pancakes (made from a secret recipe jealously guarded since 1937), it is the pumpkin bread that can be enjoyed all day long, every day. At the Log Cabin Cafe, it is served with a smile amidst vintage decor: period handmade rustic furniture, old wildlife mounts, original Fiestaware pitchers, and menus from the ‘40s offering hamburgers for a dollar. Although you may not be able to replicate the setting at home, the pumpkin bread, thankfully, is within easy reach.
LOG CABIN CAFE PUMPKIN BREAD
Mix together 4 beaten eggs; 3 cups sugar; 1 cup vegetable oil; 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree.
Sift together 3 1/2 cups flour; 2 teaspoons baking soda; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon baking powder; 1 teaspoon nutmeg; 1 teaspoon allspice; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.
Add dry ingredients to wet, alternating with 2/3 cup water, mixing well after each addition.
Distribute in 2 oiled and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool on racks for 15 minutes then remove from pans and let rest before slicing.
If you are traveling near Yellowstone, be sure to take the less traveled road through Silver Gate and Cooke City (and do yourself a favor and travel the incredibly scenic Beartooth Highway, which Charles Kuralt named The Most Beautiful Drive in America). When you do, stop in at the Log Cabin Cafe. The pumpkin bread is served warm.