As you might have noticed, I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately. Part of this is seasonal: fall is baking season, and I experience a frisson of excitement for muffins and loaves and pies every year at this time.
It’s stronger this year, though, and it feels more intentional than merely partaking in the season. There’s something particularly comforting to me right now about the rhythms of measuring and sifting flour, mixing batter, waiting for things to harden and rise. This vegan pumpkin chocolate marble loaf is my latest effort, but I think it’s only the start of a new culinary pursuit.
In fairness, this is more of a return than a new expedition: my first forays into cooking took the form of baking. There were sugar cookies each year during the holidays, a multitude of tea loaves, and the outlandish pride I felt as a high-schooler when I baked my first apple pie. Then, years later, I became so interested in the creativity and spontaneity of the cooking process that baking took a backseat. For a long time it felt overly formulaic and confining to me, inherently less interesting than sautéing and simmering and mixing and blending.
But everything is cyclical, and baking is returning to my life in a way that feels very pleasurable and right. I think part of it is that baking is currently an antidote to the process of testing cookbook recipes. That work can be creatively draining and totally unpredictable; baking can be unpredictable, too (we’ve all had things that didn’t set or rise or cook in the predicted amount of time), but it does involve giving oneself over entirely to a recipe, which can be a relief.
There’s a feeling of surrender that overtakes me when I bake, an acceptance of the fact that, once something is put into the oven, it’s no longer within my control. It’s a powerful corrective for all of the time I spend trying to make new recipes go my way, and it’s a balm for my anxiety, too–something I didn’t appreciate until this past year.
I think there’s also something to the idea that, when life feels chaotic or difficult, we seek out sweetness in a different way. In my life as an eater I tend to gravitate toward salty, savory stuff, but these days I can appreciate a cookie or a muffin or a slice of cake in a way that I haven’t always. The ripple of pleasure that comes from eating something sweet (maybe with a cup of coffee or tea) has taken on new meaning for me: it’s a little salve in an otherwise confusing time.
This pumpkin chocolate marble loaf combines two favorite things (chocolate and pumpkin), but more importantly, it’s my first ever attempt to “marble” anything. I’m not entirely sure I got it right (rather, the bread looks like pumpkin bread with a great big oval of chocolate in the center), but it tastes great, which is what matters. The technique will get better over time.
It’s a good time to be into baking, because I discovered nonstick ceramic bakeware from the GreenLife company this fall. GreenLife products are made with safe, nonstick, ceramic technology. They make healthful cooking and baking easy. It’s a small thing, I know, but sometimes having to oil or line bakeware becomes just another step in a process that can already feel daunting (especially if you’re a novice baker!).
Being able to simply pour my batter into the GreenLife muffin tins, cake pan, and loaf pan and then put them into the oven has made baking all the more appealing lately. And I get a little thrill each time I watch my baked goods simply slip out of the bakeware–no prying things out with a butter knife, no sticking, no crumbling.
About this loaf: if the thought of a pumpkin-chocolate marriage does not thrill you as much as it thrills me, you don’t actually have to bother with the marbling. You can simply follow the instructions without adding melted chocolate to a cup of the batter, bake, and slice. You’ll have a moist, fragrant, delicious pumpkin loaf on your hands, to which you can add chopped walnuts or pumpkin seeds or another nutty mix-in, if you like.
If the idea of a dense, chocolatey swirl in your pumpkin bread is making you drool, then follow the instructions as listed. The resulting loaf will be more dessert than breakfast, in the best possible way.
Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf
- 1 cup whole wheat white whole wheat, or spelt flour
- 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil such as olive, grapeseed, or safflower
- 1/4 cup almond or soy milk
- 3 ounces vegan dark chocolate melted
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Stir the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk together the sugars, pumpkin puree, oil, and non-dairy milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together until just evenly combined (some clumps are OK).
- Place a cup of your batter into a small mixing bowl and fold in the melted chocolate. Mix well.
- Pour about half of the non-chocolatey batter into a ceramic or oiled loaf pan. Pour the chocolate batter on top, then pour the rest of the regular batter on top of that. Take and knife and swirl it through the loaf; a few zig-zag motions are fine. Don’t overdo it, or the whole loaf will be mixed and muddy, rather than marbled.
- Bake the loaf for 45 minutes, or until the top is set and a toothpick emerges mostly clean (I recommend checking the loaf at 40 minutes). Allow the loaf to cool for twenty minutes, then remove it from the pan, transfer it to a cooling rack, and allow it to cool completely. Slice and serve.
If you give the bread a try, don’t worry too much about getting the marbling right. It’s easy to fret over technique when it comes to baking, because technique and detail is undeniably important. But I always have the best baking experiences when I simply proceed with confidence and humor. Maybe my cookies are misshapen and my marbling looks like blobs, but so long as my home smells great and I like what I taste, it’s all good. And if I don’t like what I taste, there’s always another baking project for another day.
I hope you’ll enjoy this very seasonal loaf; it would make a pretty great gift for Halloween giving, whether to neighbors or friends! And I’ll see you all soon.
This post is sponsored by the GreenLife brand. All opinions are my own, and I love this nonstick cookware. You can learn more about GreenLife products, purchase online, or find GreenLife near you here. Thanks for your support!