Two weeks ago I was a very unsuspecting Californian caught up in a Polar Vortex in Ohio. This week I am a very concerned Californian caught up in the effects of the driest year on record since records first became a thing in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. These are confusing, alarming times. And during confusing, alarming times I find baking to be more necessary than ever. It can serve as a reminder that whether we like it or not, and whether we feel human beings are responsible for the damage or not (and I think we are), we need our environment. We need it to be healthy and thriving because when it is not, we are not. The more we can remind ourselves of this simple truth, then the sooner, I hope, we can get our act together and start protecting and conserving and respecting that environment in a way that will actually make our children and all of the children to come proud.
Baking is also necessary during troubling times because some emotions or worries cannot be expressed or even understood in words. Food can nourish and sustain in ways that words will never quite be able to, inspiring and fulfilling and beautiful as words can often be. A lot can be communicated through a pie, or through a loaf of bread. What I would like to communicate through this chocolate chip pumpkin loaf is, “Rain, if ever you wanted us wayward humans to apologize for our misdeeds and promise to do right by you and your friends forever and always, NOW’S YOUR MOMENT. We’re at your mercy. We’re idiots. We’re nothing without you. Please come home.”
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Loaf
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 2 loaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water until well mixed (it will all combine eventually).
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together, scraping the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any stray pockets of flour. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Divide the dough between the two greased pans and sprinkle with oatmeal, walnut pieces, or sugar if you’re feeling a little fancy. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let rest in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack before slicing.