Let The Holiday Baking Begin With Pumpkin Bread

Mindy here, fresh off of this year's first holiday baking weekend. For me, baking a big batch of pumpkin bread signals the start of the holiday season. It's a tradition I started when my kids were little. I'd bake up all these small loaves of pumpkin bread early in November, freeze them (because not only do they freeze well, they're even better after freezing), then package them in cellophane bags tied with a pretty bow for all the kids to give to their teachers for Thanksgiving.
Well, my kids are adults now, but I still make that same batch of pumpkin bread every year. And while most of the loaves go to them and their families, I still hold onto a few for gift giving during the holiday season.
Here's what you'll need for this delectable treat:2 1/4 cups (that's 4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses6 cups sugar12 eggs 2 cups orange juice6 cups (2 - 29 oz cans) pumpkin puree 10 cups flour1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder2 tablespoons baking soda1 1/2 tablespoons salt1 tablespoon cinnamon1 tablespoon ground cloves3  cups raisins, regular or golden
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease inside of loaf pans with butter and set aside.As I mentioned earlier, I make lots of small loaves, but you can use regular size loaf pans, if you prefer.
In a VERY large bowl (mine is 13 quarts) cream butter, molasses, and sugar with hand-held electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mindy tip: Molasses has the consistency of tar, so spray your measuring cup/spoon with some cooking spray before measuring the molasses. Just a little bit means all of the molasses releases into the bowl and I'm not scraping out what refuses to let go of the utensil.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, until completely mixed and light colored.Add orange juice and pumpkin and mix well. Place dry ingredients into large mixing bowl.Mix to combine with wire whisk.This is akin to old fashioned sifting, but much easier. It also disperses the spices, because nobody wants to bite into a clump of cloves.
Now's when you're forced to ditch the electric mixer and switch to a sturdy wooden/metal/plastic spoon.
Stir dry ingredients, two cups at a time, into pumpkin mixture, mixing until everything is combined. Stir in your raisins.Spoon batter into greased loaf pans and bake for 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Since I use the smaller pans, they only bake for about 35-45 minutes.Everything was going smoothly up until this point. Then, about 20 minutes into the baking, I smelled something burning. When I checked the oven, I discovered that one of the pans had tipped onto its side and the batter had spilled onto the bottom of the oven. I turned off the oven, wiped off the side of the wayward pan (there was still batter in it) and set it back in upright, and proceeded to scrap out the batter from the bottom with a long spatula. That's when I heard the gunshot.
Did I mention that Saturday was the first day of deer season?
Yep, one of the boys got a deer on the other side of the pasture. Next thing you know, I'm getting a phone call to come out there with my big camera (that's as opposed to my phone). So, I finished cleaning out the oven, closed it up, turned it back on and, with 15 minutes to left on the timer, I hurried out there, snapped a couple of pics and got back just before the timer went off.
I removed the pans from the oven and placed on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Then I removed the bread from the pans and allowed to cool completely. Unfortunately, with so much going on, I forgot to take a picture of the finished pumpkin bread, so I'll have to share this old one from years ago.Once the bread is cooled, wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil before freezing.
Not only are these great gifts for teachers, neighbors or friends, they're great to have on hand for hostess gifts or anytime you need something impromptu. Simply pull a loaf from the freezer, remove the foil, place plastic wrapped loaf in a cellophane bag and tie with a pretty ribbon. Instant gift for any occasion.
Now it's your turn. What is the first thing you usually make to kick off your holiday baking? If you're not a baker, what favorite holiday treat kicks off the season for you? 

Three-time Carol Award finalist, Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com