29 March 2013

Pane alla Zucca or Pumpkin Bread for Easter 2013

Officially, according to the calendar, spring is here, but it seems that winter has made a comeback with plans to stick around.  Easter is early this year and it seems that the real color, aside from a few primula and purple phlox,  comes from Easter decorations.  Store window dressings are colorfully extravagant, while colorfully wrapped Easter eggs festoon the grocery stores and market. I guess that will just have to do till spring blooming gets fully underway. 

 Colorful Italian chocolate Easter eggs on display at the Pinerolo market

This year in addition to that bread and other I am going to make Pumpkin bread or Pane alla zucca. It is  not a sweet quick bread like most of us from the US think of, but a yeasted bread that replaces the water in the recipe with pumpkin puree.  It's a colorful and flavorful bread that will help me use up the last pumpkin of last season that is need off being used before nature has it's way with it.  When I saw this being made on our local cooking show they hollowed out the center and filled it with some cooked broccoli and pancetta. If made into small loaves, it could be a soup or dip holder, but that is not what I am going to do. I'm looking forward to thick slabs of colorful bread. This year I decided to make and bake a full load of various breads the night before Easter in our wood fired oven. Not only will we have plenty of bread for the Easter feast, I 'll have some loaves to send home with our cousins.  I'll make some normal daily sourdough bread and add in some specialty breads for Easter. I am going to do a Casatiello Napoletano, because not only is it delicious it looks great with the whole eggs in their shell baked on top. You can find my recipe to it here.
My home made Casatiello Napoletano

This bread is best made with dense fleshed pumpkins or squash.  I made this loaf in the photo with butternut squash. So not really a pumpkin bread the winter squash varieties are so mixed up and interchangeable, suffice it say that a dense orange fleshed squash or pumpkin is what you are looking for. I will be using what is called here a Mantua squash, but as best as I can place it, it is some variety of kabocha squash, probably of the delica variety.  It is a smaller but dense squash that keeps well all winter, but now, it's time to use it and I think it will be a welcome addition to the bread basket.  

Pane alla Zuccca

It's pretty easy to make if you know what you are looking for in the way of rising. If you use the commercial yeast, it should be a one day bread if you start in the morning. If using sour dough it may take longer. I don't mind the longer rises, as I think it develops the flavor of the bread, so take you pick, but do try making this bread. It has a delicate flavor and beautiful color that is sure to please. 
Butternut squash chunks being steamed

Pane alla Zucca 

 My adapted recipe of Gabriele Bonci recipe


  • 10c /2.2 # / 1 kg flour I used a high gluten flour that is called manitoba here in Italy
  • 3/4c / 7 oz / 200g sour dough or livieto madre -- I refreshed mine the night before so that it was quite active  
  • or for secure results use some commercial yeast
  • 7 g yeast, dry instant
  • 3 3/4c / 1 1/2 # / 700g pumpkin/ winter squash pulp, cleaned*
  • 2 tsp Salt (q.b.)
  • Poppy seeds, optional for topping


  • If you are using a dense squash and are going to steam it, then peel and deseed your pumpkin or squash. Weigh it to make sure you still have enough . Cut the squash into chunks and steam it till soft.  Run the pulp through a food mill, ricer, or food processor.
  • If you are baking your squash, weigh your pumpkin to know what amount you have and cut the squash into slabs with the peel still on. Bake in the oven till soft. Scrape flesh off the peel and run the pulp through a food mill, ricer, or food processor.
  • Add the salt to the pumpkin either when cooking or when turning it in to a puree.
  • Measure or weigh out your flour into a large bowl.
  • Add the cooked prepared pumpkin pulp to the flour.
  • Add the dry yeast or sour dough
  • Mix together first with a spoon or spatula till a rough dough forms. You can continue to mix it in the bowl with your hands in till smooth adjusting the flour or liquid if needed. I like to finish mixing and kneading on the generously floured table. Mix and gingerly knead till the dough is smooth and pliable.
  • Lightly oil your bowl add the dough turning to oil the entire dough, cover with plastic wrap ,and set in a warm place to rise for about 5-6 hours.
  • Once the dough has risen well and is full of air and feels well risen, turn out of the bowl onto the table. Cut into two pieces. Lightly form the bread into to loaf rounds, tucking your ends underneath, being careful not to deflate the bread too much.
  • Dip the smooth top of each loaf into a bowl of water and then lightly press the wet dough into a bowl of poppy seeds.
  • Place the seeded side up on a baking tray. I usually use a silicon pad or baking paper to keep the bread from sticking to the tray. Let the loaves rise a little longer if you think they need it. Otherwise, with a pair of kitchen scissor, cut four gashes in the top in a circle to form a top knot. And if you like make 4 cuts with the scissors around the outside and through the sides top to bottom to make large petals.
  • Bake in a very hot oven. I usually start my oven at the highest temperature. Once it comes up to temperature. I spray the oven with water to form some steam and then quickly put the loaves in. I turn the heat down to 375*F (190*C) and bake the loaves for about 30-40 minutes. I have a convection oven and it does;t always take that long. Sometimes it is only 25 minutes. When the bread looks a golden brown and has a hollow sound when thumped, the bread should be done.
  • Let cool a while before slicing so the texture is not crushed. Breath deep and enjoy the bready wonderfulness before devouring.
* Cooks Notes
  • This recipe is originally in metric measures, so when adapting to cups it sometimes takes a little adjusting to get the right amount for your ingredients.
  • If I am using dense fleshed winter squash or pumpkins I will cut up it up into chunks and  steam them till soft and then puree them by using a ricer or food mill. 
  • If I have some of the larger varieties of pumpkins or squash that are sometimes stringy and very watery, I might consider baking them in the oven to reduce the liquid and intensify the flavor. Either way if you find your dough too stiff you can always add a bit of water or if the dough is too wet, then add a tad more flour. Bread is like that, so don't be afraid. Knead on.
Pumpkin or Squash Bread


rebecca said...

Nice post, nice website about Italy!!

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting Rebecca.

lisa | renovating italy said...

I love the bright cellophane wrappers Marla and the promise they hold. The tiny stores filled with bright flowers are gorgeous, now bring on Spring and let me get out of these Winter woolies xxx

Unknown said...

Hey There,
such a wonderful blog you have!!!
so many interesting recipes and so beautiful photos… I adore it!
Now i'm following you as member of your blog!

take care

p.s. come to visit my blog and let me know what do u think about it ;)

Lesley Jones said...

Hi there, just found your blog, it's excellent the recipe is clear and well explained and the photos make me want to start baking now! Will definitely try this bread, thank you Lesley www.estestest.me.uk

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thanks Lisa, Alessandro and Lesley for stopping by and commenting. Lisa I did just have to have some spring color to shake off the winter gray. Alessandro your blog is very interesting. i need to come back and do a bit more exploring. It is interesting as there aren't a lot of Italian male food bloggers other than chefs. Lesley, I'm glad you found me and I hope you come back.

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