Ordinary Magic: Making Butternut Squash Bread


This recipe did not start in the kitchen. It started in the library.

I picked up this book. We paged through it together and came upon a recipe for Butternut Pumpkin Bread with Feta. Tim immediately put his finger on the picture and declared, “I want to eat that.”

And so, we made it.

I already happened to have a butternut squash in my possession; it came from my grandfather’s garden. And the following day we stop at one of the cheese counters at market and got a wedge of goat gouda.








Tim started with the squash. He skinned, sliced it in half, gutted it, and cut it into little pieces. (The top and bottom, skin and seeds, were all saved for making stock later on in the evening.) I set the oven for 425 degrees Farenheit. Then he tossed the squash in a 1 or 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Then the squash was lightly roasted – it took about twenty minutes, until the pieces were soft (but not squishy) when pierced. 

We had more than enough, so we munched on roasted squash cubes as we continued to cook.

When Tim was finished with the cutting board, I sliced the onion – we nearly used a whole one. (And again, the skins and ends were reserved for stock.) 

At the same time, the yeast (two packets) was set to bloom in a 1/2 cup of warm water. I wasn’t too worried about how long it would take – the mixture just had to look foamy and creamy. 

Then the onions and yeast mixture all went into the blender (you could use a food processor too, if that’s what you’ve got), along with:

1/2 cup of oil (we used coconut, any other would work, or butter)

1/2 cup of coconut milk (but use whatever kind you like)

2 eggs (chia seed, in the correct proportions and activated, could probably work too)

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 teaspoons sucanat (or you could use sugar)

about a tablespoon of dried rosemary (but I wish we had fresh)

All of this was blended together until it was the consistency of a thick smoothie. Then we poured all of this back into the bowl and add the flour – 3 cups whole wheat.











It was time to let the dough rise. 

The recipe said an hour, but that’s an approximate. Warm, moister weather will produce a quicker rise. The day we made this bread it was chilly and dry, so we knew it would take a little longer. Part way through, I transferred the dough to a warm, humid, draft-free space: the microwave with a cup of near boiling water set inside. 


While we waited for the gluten to do it’s magic, we cut up the cheese (the whole block – probably about 1 cup) and measured out the butternut squash (about 1 1/2 cups). The oven was set the oven to preheat at 325 degrees Farenheit and I greased (with coconut oil) a bread pan.



When the dough held the impression of my finger after I pressed on it lightly, I knew it was finished rising. We gently added the squash and cheese, then slipped the dough into the bread pan, topped it with a few more pieces of squash and slipped the bread pan into the oven.

And we then we waited. We made soup with a stock made of the leftover bits and pieces – onion skins, butternut squash guts and skin, the tops of celery stalks and water from rehydrated mushrooms. The bread baked for about an hour, until it was golden on top. Then I flipped the broiler on for a couple minutes so that it was a little more brown and so the cheese on top was particularly melted.  



And it met all of our expectations.

But we didn’t follow the recipe. In fact, before we ever left the library we were already scheming how we would make our own adjustments. And when at last the bread was baked, we dreamed up further edits. Pumpkins seeds sprinkled on top, for example; that would give the loaf a satisfying crunch (if you’re into that kind of thing). 

Before we began, Tim decided he was going to take a complete series of the process with his phone. You can see them here and here. All but two of the pictures in this post are those he took with his phone.

Anyone could take the pictures that we took, just as anyone could make bread like we made. If you don’t have butternut squash, use sweet potatoes. If cow products don’t agree with you, skip the cheese and add more squash. Or walnuts. Do you want this to be more sweet than savory? Add dried cranberries and/or increase the sucanat/sugar content.

A recipe is not a magical spell. It’s a place from which to begin. 

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