It’s raining as I type this, pattering down on the roof and slipping through the leaky skylight on the stairs leading to the second floor. The California wind chime on the porch is merrily beating against itself. Two nights ago there was a fierce windstorm that had the whole house creaking and groaning; I always forget how it does that, and how the desultorily-attached outside shutters blow back and forth with great crashing booms. If during rainstorms my San Francisco apartment felt like being inside a ship at sea – still cozy, though, especially with a wool blanket tucked around my knees – my house in Casablanca during thunder-and lightening storms feels a bit like being inside a tent in the mountains. I was thinking about long ago backpacking trips the other night when the wind tore at our outside bedroom door and then managed to push it open for a minute, how sometimes it seemed as though that flimsy contraption of aluminum and nylon would slide right off the slick granite and tumble down to the valley in the darkness below. We’d huddle in our bags and listen sleep deeply if fitfully and then in the morning the sun would shine brightly again and the breeze would be a gentle thing. Oh the mountains are calling and I must go — yes. Always.
Sierra and I had a lovely quiet day today doing the little things we like to do: we read, we listened to music, we explored the yard, we played hide and seek, we walked in the neighborhood and chased cats, we read some more, and she took two naps that allowed me to cook two pots of soup (chicken and rice and vegetables, my new staple, and a quinoa-vegetable with green beans), pear sauce, and a pumpkin-chocolate bread I saw mentioned on two of my favorite food blogs and knew I needed to make for afternoon tea. It’s adapted from a recipe in Alice Medrich’s ‘Flavor Flours’ and while I am not so keen on the use of white rice flour as an exclusive substitute for all-purpose – I usually prefer to do a combination of gluten-free whole grain flours with a smaller addition of white rice flour to help it the batter hold together – I can’t deny it acts as a wonderful gluten-reminiscent binder. It’s slightly sweet and starchy and when whisked with a little buckwheat flour in this loaf produces a tender, dense crumb. And let’s face it: buckwheat is very in-your-face assertive so if you want a milder taste, erring on less is more is the way to go.
Anyway, the loaf: I kept pretty close to the original recipe but added roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate. Miam miam. It’s velvety and deep and shot through with dark chocolate; complex, you might call it, but in a mellow way. More cheerful than moody. I shared my slice, smeared with butter, with little S. I have had a lot of thoughts lately about food and kids, and kids and food, and food and how to feed kids but jetlag is still hanging on and I think I shall marinate on those for the time being and explore those when my brain is a bit more coherent. But suffice to say she loved it as well as I did. We had a nice few moments in the warm kitchen as the skies opened up while nibbling on our pumpkin bread (plus a few bites of banana for her), and I am anticipating a shared morning snack tomorrow before we go about the rest of our day.
I meant to bring out the big camera and style these photos but … These may not do today’s loaf full justice but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s good, it’s good for now, and you should make this just as soon as you have a chance. Rain or no rain.
If you want: swap out the white rice flour for all-purpose flour or, even better, whole wheat pastry flour. I’d like to try a version with bananas instead of pumpkin and with a combo of millet, white rice, brown rice, and buckwheat flours, too.
Makes 1 9-inch loaf.
8 tablespoons (1 stick/115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup (190g) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (120g) white rice flour
1/3 cup (40g) buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (170g) pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate (note: I, err, just eye-balled this.)
Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and butter it well.
Combine the butter, sugar, and eggs in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Alternatively, use a handheld mixer and beat for 3-4 minutes.
Add the rice and buckwheat flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin puree and beat on low speed until smooth. Fold in the chocolate
Spread the batter in the prepared pan, place in the oven, and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan for 30 minutes before using the parchment as a sling to unmold the bread and let cool completely on a rack. The bread keeps for several days on the counter, wrapped loosely in parchment or plastic wrap.