Pumpkin Cider Bread: A Straightforward Baking Post

(Yes, there’s a recipe at the end of this, because I’m totally gonna do that food blogger thing for a minute. Sort of.)
Recently I picked up a 6-pack of Woodchuck pumpkin cider, because I AM the target market for all things apple, gingerbread, and pumpkin, and will cheerfully try just about anything that involves them. I have zero shame about this. I was a bit dubious, because I wasn’t sure how fermented pumpkin juice was going to play out, but I was hopeful. Woodchuck has rarely steered me wrong.

To my dismay, it was just not remotely palatable. It’s deeply weird, and not in a pleasant way. I had Himself try it, and tell me what he thought, and his response was a single word: “Bread.”

I make beer bread in the fall and winter A LOT. It’s quick, it’s easy, it goes with just about anything, and as a bonus, it’s a good way to dispose of extra bottles of beers that looked interesting but turned out to be not to our taste. Something about the alchemy of baking soda, heat, and beer transforms sharp, bitter, or just…odd…flavor profiles into soft, toasty goodness with a buttery, crunchy crust that goes well with a good soup or stew.
I’ve never used a cider, though, and had no idea if it would work. In theory it should, but one never knows until afterward. Still, it was worth a shot. Worst case, it didn’t pan out, I toss the rest of the cans, and lessons are learned.

Of course, then we promptly had two tropical storms come through (with surprise! tornado activity!), and a heat wave with temps near 100F. Even with air conditioning, that is not baking weather.

Today, though, the heat broke, and it’s deliciously autumnal. Today was the day to see if pumpkin cider makes passable bread.

Y’all, this might be the BEST quickbread I’ve ever made. ALL of the weird, jarring flavor profiles mellowed into a subtle sweetness that is amazing. It went really well with the chicken goulash I made for dinner, as well. This is definitely going into rotation, and will need to be tested with other ciders, as well.

It was so good, I wanted to share it with you, so here it is:

Cider (or beer) Bread

Ingredients
3 cups AP flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
12 oz. Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider (or the beer of your choice)
3 Tbs. melted butter (optional)

Steps:
1.) Preheat oven to 375F.
2.) Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan with vegetable shortening.
3.) Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together, making sure brown sugar clumps are broken up.
4.) Pour in cider or beer and mix with baking spoon of choice (I use wooden spoons or silicone spatulas, but use whatever works for you) until just combined. Batter will be thick and sticky.
5.) Pour batter into greased pan and smooth out so that it’s spread into all corners. If desired, pour melted butter evenly over top. (The butter’s not necessary, but it does make for a better crust and a softer bread, and I recommend not skipping it.)
6.) Bake for about 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
7.) Cool on cooling rack.
8.) Attempt not to devour entire loaf in one sitting, tempting as it may be.

There Are Two Types Of People

The other day I decided to stop at an antique shop that I’ve been driving past a lot lately and check it out.  Poking around old antique shops is one of my comfort hobbies, and has been one of the things I’ve missed most during the pandemic.  On this particular day I *really* needed the happy brain chemical hit, so it seemed like a good time to grab a mask and wander in.  

It was a nice little place.  Small, well-lit and clearly well-dusted, filled with mostly beautiful old furniture and dishware, an unusual number of handmade witch dolls, and now that I think of it, a somewhat disturbing quantity of taxidermy.  Like, really.  I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before.  It’s strange to realize just how very much the entire perimeter, near the ceiling line, was entirely lined by dozens upon dozens of taxidermied animal heads, and that it really didn’t register as anything particularly odd at the time…  Huh.

So that’s a thing, I guess?

Anyway, I was wandering around, looking at well-maintained writing desks, hutches, dining sets, and all that, when I turned a corner and came nearly eye to baleful eye with the most ragged and moth-eaten stuffed rabbit I have ever seen.  I stopped dead in my tracks and blurted out “That is the MOST cursed looking thing I have ever seen in my life!” to the old guy who ran the place, who was sitting on a bench nearby.  He laughed, and agreed.  I took a photo of it, because holy cats.

(A faded, bright yellow stuffed toy rabbit, missing large patches of fur, with a pale blue ribbon loosely tied around its neck, sits on an old olive green and brown antique sled. It has a single, unnervingly red eye.)

There’s only the one eye.  The other one is gone, probably sacrificed in exchange for some nefarious purposes.

Being me, I posted it on social media when I got home, and I have to say, I am deeply amused at the reactions to that thing.  It was a 50/50 split of “I NEED A YOUNG PRIEST AND AN OLD PRIEST!” and “Awwww, someone loved that bunny so much!”

There are two kinds of people.  Only one of them makes it out of the horror movie.

Which one are you?

There Is A Hole In The World And I’ve Forgotten How To Fly

(Warning, I’m talking about parental death in this post, so if you’re sensitive about the subject, please feel free to skip this one if you need to.  This is a hard subject at the best of times, and this is not the best of times.  Please take care of yourselves, my loves.)

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When I was little, I used to love going for walks with my dad. This was complicated, because Dad was 6′ 5″ in his prime, and his legs were so much longer than mine.  He’d try his best to go slow enough for me to keep up, or catch up, but it didn’t really work.  That’s what this month has felt like.  Like I was running, trying to catch up, and he was trying so hard to slow down and wait, to give us more time, but it didn’t work.

Early on the morning of July 7th, exactly one week from the day we found out that his cancer treatment hadn’t done a damned thing, and he was being admitted to the hospital so that they could try and get him strong enough to start another kind of chemo,  I held my father’s hand as he took his last breath and was gone.  He had tried so hard to slow down and hold on just a little longer, but it didn’t work.  The cancer was too aggressive and there was nothing anyone could do to fix it.  I sat vigil by his side through that long night, in a darkened hospital room, singing the songs we used to sing together when I was little to him, and the lullaby that my mom used to sing to me, and held his hand and told him that I loved him and that I’d be okay, and counted each breath as he slowed down, like a little wind-up spring toy, until he simply stopped between one breath and another.  I had promised him that I would not let him be alone, and I kept my word.  It is the most important thing I have ever done, and as much as it hurts, I am glad that I was able to be there for him when he needed me most.

There is a odd kind of peace that comes over you, there in that liminal space where life and death and the infinite meet.  A kind of calm, as if you have briefly stepped outside the world and time has no hold where you are.   I can’t describe it better than that, but I am glad for its presence.  It made a terrible situation bearable, and I will hold that peace in my heart forever.

There was a cheshire moon in the predawn sky when I stepped out of the hospital and back into the world and time, followed by the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.  It made me smile, because it was the kind of morning that Dad loved most.

I am as okay as one can expect to be in these situations.  Which is to say that I’m a total wreck and I’m swinging between wanting to punch a god, wanting to curl up in a little ball and become an endless pool of tears, relieved that my father is no longer suffering and afraid, and wanting to scream at the world to just. give me. five. fucking. minutes to process what the fuck I just went through.  Sadly, I can’t do any of these things, and besides, his lack of will means that I have to deal with getting his house and property through probate, which is going to be a massive part of my life for the next 6 months.  There is so much more work involved in probate than people realize, even with my incredibly straightforward situation (I’m the last of my line, and have no other direct relatives who might be able to claim anything, so I get the “easy” probate.  It’s still damned near a full-time job, and one that’s currently eating my entire free time and a mind-boggling amount of financial outlay until I can get it through and reimbursed.)

I don’t know what things are going to look like for a while.  I wish I did.  I’m hoping that today’s round of paperwork will be the last of the major time-sucking portions of this, and that I’ll now be able to get my ass back to work, but the reality is that I just don’t know.  I’m in uncharted waters, and I don’t know what the currents are like or where the rocks are.  I’m taking this weekend off from any responsibilities besides trying to reclaim my house from the wreckage of a month of not having enough time to deal with anything but the most basic of cleaning attempts.  I might knit something.  I might throw out half my stuff and redo my entire life’s goals from the ground up because life is too short and precious and I might start over from scratch. 

I’m going to try not to do that last part too aggressively, because this close to a major loss is the absolute worst time to make life-changing decisions, but it’s also the best time, because you do see what REALLY matters to you so much more clearly, but yeah, major decisions, not the best time. Might start working on some retooling, though.  Might also just sleep for a few days straight.  Idk.  We’ll see.

Hug your loved ones.  Don’t put off the things you want to do.  Be kind to one another.  Enjoy the sunrises, and the cheshire moons, and the taste of your favorite foods, and just…savor every drop of being alive that you can.