This sourdough discard pumpkin bread is a fall favorite packed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and an entire can of pumpkin flavor.
Quick breads are one of the easiest ways to use up excess sourdough discard. What’s really great about quick breads is they don’t take hours to make.
They rely on chemical leaveners like baking powder and baking soda rather than yeast. This is not a traditional “sourdough” bread. It is simply a quick bread that just happens to include a cup of sourdough discard.
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What is sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is the part of your sourdough starter that you usually throw away when you feed it. I feel guilty about throwing away food and am always looking for ways to reduce food waste.
Sourdough discard adds tons of incredible flavor to baked goods. The lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough discard adds flavor and tenderizes wheat proteins.
This recipe can use sourdough discard from any step in the sourdough starter process. It can be bubbly and freshly fed, dormant from sitting in your refrigerator, or anywhere in between. It also doesn’t matter what type of flour your starter has been fed with. All-purpose, whole wheat, or any variety of flour will work.
Sourdough Tip: Keep a glass jar in your refrigerator to store your sourdough discard. Continue adding to it until you have enough to make your chosen sourdough discard recipe.
What if you don’t have any sourdough?
While this recipe was created to use up excess sourdough discard, you can easily substitute the same amount of sour cream, yogurt, or unsweetened applesauce if you don’t have any discard.
All-purpose flour: For a nuttier flavor swap up to half of the AP flour for whole wheat flour.
Spices: Often I will use just cinnamon and nutmeg but warm fragrant spices like cardamon, ginger, cloves, or allspice could work well too. You could also substitute two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.
Baking soda: Quick breads use chemical leaveners such as baking soda or baking powder to rise.
Salt: Salt helps to boost the flavors in baked goods.
Pumpkin Puree: A pet peeve of my is having partial cans of ingredients leftover, which is why this pumpkin bread uses an entire can of pumpkin puree. Make sure you are using pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie mix. The pumpkin pie mix has additional spices added in. If you only have pumpkin pie mix then I would suggest not adding any additional spices.
You could also make your own pumpkin puree.
Brown sugar: Brown sugar contains more moisture and adds a deep caramel flavor. Feel free to substitute the same amount of regular white granulated sugar for the brown sugar although the bread may not be as moist. You can also reduce the amount of sugar if you prefer your pumpkin bread less sweet.
Neutral oil: (canola, vegetable, etc.) You could also swap the oil for the same amount of softened unsalted butter.
Large eggs: Room temperature eggs are easier to incorporate. Be sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next egg.
Sourdough discard (fed or unfed): If you don’t have any sourdough discard, you can substitute sour cream, yogurt, or unsweetened applesauce.
Vanilla extract: Make sure to use pure vanilla extract not imitation. The flavor will be much better.
Kitchen scale: Kitchen scales make baking faster and neater. Accuracy matters in baking. Scales are more precise than measuring cups. Too much flour or not enough sugar can dramatically change a recipe. The most accurate way to bake is to measure your ingredients by weight rather than volume.
A kitchen scale also reduces the number of dishes you will need to wash because you are measuring each ingredient directly from the container into the mixing bowl without the use of measuring cups.
This scale from OXO is the one I use after it was recommended by Alton Brown. What makes this scale great is the display pulls out to make viewing measurements easier when using a large bowl.
Mixing Bowls: These are some of my favorite mixing bowls. They come in a huge range of sizes, nest together for easy storage, and are easy to clean.
Rubber spatula: For folding batters together, I prefer a stiffer spatula like this one from OXO. It fits comfortable in my hand, is dishwasher safe, and is heat-resistant up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Both the handle and head are silicone coated which makes it easy to clean and safe to use with my non-stick cookware and bake ware.
Loaf pan: These are my favorite loaf pans. They are heavy duty which means they won’t warp and they distribute heat evenly. Plus they are non-stick which makes removing loaves of bread really easy. I hand wash mine to keep them looking their best. Don’t worry the non-stick coating also makes clean up a breeze.
Cooling rack: Cooling racks are essential for cooling baked goods quickly and preventing soggy bottoms. I really like these cooling racks from the Checkered Chef. They are recommend by Cook’s Illustrated, are very sturdy, and are free from coatings which means they are safe to use in the oven as well.
Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheight. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no flour clumps remain. Do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Whisk together the cinnamon and sugar topping and sprinkle on top of the batter. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes. The pumpkin bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
Frequently asked questions
If you don’t have a loaf pan, there are a variety of other ways you could bake this sourdough pumpkin bread.
Mini loaves: Pour the batter into three mini loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes.
Muffins: Use this sourdough discard pumpkin bread recipe to make 18 pumpkin muffins. Pour the batter into lined or greased muffin pans and bake for 5 minutes at 425°F then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 8-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The total bake time is about 13-17 minutes.
Cake pan: Nearly any cake pan will work. Cake pans come in a variety of sizes so baking time will vary. As a general rule, the larger the pan, the thinner the bread will be, the shorter the baking time needs to be.
Pancakes or Waffles: I haven’t tried it yet but I suspect this batter would also make pretty good pumpkin pancakes or waffles.
Baking times for all recipes are only suggestions. The actual baking time will vary depending upon your oven. It is helpful to know your oven and worth purchasing an inexpensive oven thermometer. Oven temperatures can vary as much as 50 degrees plus or minus.
There are a few clues to look for to tell when your sourdough pumpkin bread is done. Most quick breads will crack on top when they are fully baked. This happens because the crust sets before the loaf has finished rising.
You can also gently poke the top with your finger. If it leaves an indent bake for a few minutes longer. If it springs back your bread is probably done.
Use a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf to check for doneness. If it comes out clean or with just a crumb or two sticking to it your pumpkin bread is done. If there is uncooked batter on the toothpick bake the banana bread for a few minutes longer.
Alternatively, you can check your banana bread with an instant-read thermometer. This one from ThermoWorks is my favorite. It is recommended by America’s Test Kitchen and is super fast and accurate. Once the center of the loaf has reached 200 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit the loaf is done.
For even more information about baking pumpkin bread check out this post “How to tell when banana bread is done” from King Arthur Baking.
Check the date on your baking soda to make sure it isn’t expired and make sure you are adding the correct amount of baking soda. Adding too much will cause the bread to rise too high with too many internal air pockets which will cause it to collapse as it cools.
Don’t over-mix the batter. Over-mixing incorporates too much air into the batter and can cause it to collapse.
Use the correct size pan and do not over-fill it. If your pan is too full, there will not be enough support from the sides of the pan as the bread rises.
When pumpkin bread and all quick breads bake they rise and the sugar caramelizes to form an outer crust, which darkens and crisps as the bread bakes. The bread can look fully baked even though it isn’t. If you remove the bread from the oven too soon before the middle has had enough time to fully bake and set it will not have enough structure to support the crust.
If the top of your sourdough pumpkin bread is browning too quickly check your oven temperature it may be too hot. You could also cover the top of the bread with a piece of foil for the last few minutes of baking to reduce the risk of the bread burning.
Grease your pan well. I usually use nonstick spray but you could also use shortening, softened butter, or oil.
Line the pan with parchment paper. Leave two of the sides long to create a sling which makes removing the loaf of pumpkin bread from the pan a breeze.
Allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least ten minutes. As the bread cools, steam will condense along the edges and help the bread release more easily.
If the bread does stick, run a thin knife around the outer edges of the pan to loosen it.
How to store
Should you refrigerate sourdough discard pumpkin bread?
Sourdough pumpkin bread is best when stored at room temperature. Wrapped in plastic wrap it will keep for 4-5 days. Any longer, especially when temperatures are warmer, it will start to have a fermented flavor.
How to freeze
Pumpkin bread freezes really well. Having a couple of frozen loaves or slices in your freezer means you always have a quick and easy breakfast or snack ready.
- Once the pumpkin bread has cooled completely, tightly wrap the whole loaf or slices (individually or grouped) in 2-3 layers of plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Place the wrapped pumpkin bread in a large freezer zip-top bag or reusable container.
- Label with the date and contents and freeze for up to 6 months.
- To thaw, place the frozen pumpkin bread on the counter. It will thaw in about 30 minutes if it’s sliced or about two to four hours if it’s a full or partial loaf.
This recipe is very forgiving and will support various substitutions.
- Flour: For a nuttier flavor swap up to half of the AP flour for whole wheat flour.
- Sugar: Feel free to substitute the same amount of regular white granulated sugar for the brown sugar although the bread may not be as moist. You can also reduce the amount of sugar if you prefer your pumpkin bread less sweet.
- Oil: Swap the oil for the same amount of softened unsalted butter.
- No Sourdough Discard? Substitute sour cream, yogurt, or unsweetened applesauce.
- Mini Loaves: Pour the batter into three mini loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes.
- Muffins: Use this sourdough discard pumpkin bread recipe to make 24 pumpkin muffins. Pour the batter into lined or greased muffin pans and bake for 5 minutes at 425°F then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The total bake time is about 20-23 minutes.
- Turn your pumpkin bread into french toast. Cut dried-out pumpkin bread into 1/2-inch slices. Dip the slices into french toast custard and cook in a skillet or on a griddle.
This recipe for sourdough pumpkin bread is a great base for all sorts of additional flavors. For an added flavor twist, try adding a cup of any combination of the following:
- peanut butter
- chopped chocolate
- raisins, craisins, or other chopped dried fruit
- chopped nuts
- seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- sliced fresh fruit
- shredded coconut
Stir in any additions just before pouring the batter into the pan.
More quick bread recipes
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