pumpkin babka

marThe “perilous whiteness of pumpkins” seems to be on everyone’s mind right now. Yep, like this one and this one and this one. The title is awfully catchy. Perhaps a bit too catchy as it has certainly received a great deal of attention.

However, as someone who loves a catchy title, I also took a go at reading the paper itself. Contrary to the impression I originally picked up from some articles about the paper, the paper is even-toned and far from accusatory. It is, after all, academic writing; it’s not that intent or purpose are at all neutral, but that the writing–at least once you move past that title–remains free of passion, vitriol and superfluous adjectives. I found their integration of disparate pumpkin-related phenomena into something arguably cohesive quite interesting. They describe the role pumpkins play as a symbol rather than a food. (How often, when you think of pumpkins, do you think of a fruitnot an ingredient solely destined for holiday-themed baking, jack-a-lanterns, pumpkin spice lattes (henceforth to be abbreviated as a catchy PSL–because academics love their acronyms. i know, practical reasons.), and so forth…?) As with many symbols, there are associations of class and privilege and race, and that is where the crux of the paper lies.

I don’t think Powell and Engelhardt are writing this to call for an end to PSLs or to decorative gourds. Because I do so very much agree–doing that will not erase privilege and disadvantage. Not in the slightest. Essentially, the symbolism surrounding pumpkins is just one more manifestation of underlying disparities.

There perhaps lies an issue that can be taken with this paper–sure, pumpkins are unique, yes, but are not unique in carrying connotations of upper class and whiteness and privilege. In this regard, a paper could perhaps be cobbled together for just about anything.

However, I think their purpose it is not to vilify the symbolism of pumpkins as the root of all that is wrong in the world–it’s to draw attention to that symbolism. The authors argue that it’s a matter of realizing how much certain hierarchies permeate our lives, what images we strive for, and just how that speaks in terms of social structure and power. It’s an interesting point–though also maybe not immediately translational into enacting change.

So in conclusion: there is much else in the world; it’s just simply that Powell and Engelhardt took the time to write about pumpkins.

Accumulation of critical, relational, and contextual analyses, including things seemingly as innocuous as pumpkins, points the way to a food studies of humanities and geography, that helps make visible the racial, gendered, classed, and placed politics of contemporary life in the United States.

The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins

Anyways, succumbing to Thanksgiving-type fervor, here is a pumpkin spice babka…

I think I like the mascarpone filling better–it has a bit more substance and richness, and kept the babka moist as well. The pumpkin gave the dough a gorgeous saffron tone. Next time I would not add in any additional milk or liquid, but instead rely solely upon the liquid in the pumpkin puree. The pumpkin is clearly there, though mostly by virtue of spice-mediated reinforcement.

The bread was also mildly soft and fluffy once baked! Ah, I feel like I am gradually getting the hang of making sort-of soft and fluffy sourdoughs–the key being a pleasantly lively and bubbly sourdough starter.pumpkin babka

Makes two loaves. Vaguely adapted (vaguely) from my previous babka adaptation. Mostly just freehanded, which meant I just kept on adding more flour…


100 g Kamut

100 g water

50 g sourdough starter


500 g a.p. flour

7 g salt

7 g wheat gluten

45 g sugar

2 eggs

300 g pumpkin puree

35 g milk

50 g butter

mascarpone filling

180 g mascarpone

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch cloves, black pepper, salt

3 tbsp sugar

spice filling

softened butter

3 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/4 tsp nutmeg

pinch cloves, black pepper, salt

The night before mix together the sponge and allow to ferment on the counter overnight.

The next day, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and wheat gluten. Make a well in the centre, add the eggs, pumpkin puree, milk and sponge. Mix together with a wooden spoon, switching to hands when necessary, to form a cohesive dough. Add more flour if needed, but it should be fairly soft and a little bit sticky. Beat in the butter. Cover a let rise completely, 6-8 hours.

Line two loaf pans with a parchment paper sling, and butter any exposed surfaces.

Divide the dough in half. Roll out into a squarish rectangle. Spread with the marsacpone mixture, leaving a border of a few centimetres along one of the longer edges. Roll up widthwise and press to seal. Cut the roll in half lengthwise, place the two halves face up next to each other and twist together, keeping the filling sides facing up. (This is a bit confusing, but I have some process pictures here of another babka rolled in the same style.) Drop into a loaf pan.

Repeat with the remaining dough half, this time spreading with butter and sprinkling with the spiced sugar mixture. I did not use all of the sugar.

Cover the loafs and let rise around 1.5-2 hours or until well puffed.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the loafs with some beaten egg.

Bake for 30-40 min or until nicely browned. The mascarpone one takes longer due to the moisture of the filling; by 30-40 minutes it was cooked through, but the butter and spice-filled babka was a bit dry.

4 thoughts on “pumpkin babka

    1. Thank you Jess! I actually got the idea from the pumpkin spice babka you mentioned in your latest babka post. The idea sounded so delicious that I couldn’t help myself 😀
      And oh gosh, French toast sounds just perfect! A bit of maple syrup and we’re set 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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