Why such a strange amount of pureed pumpkin? Because it’s the same amount as one can of pumpkin puree, and if you insist on using canned, I want you to be able to swap it for the homemade version here. In that same vein, you can swap all the spices used in the bread crumbs here for 1 ½ tablespoons premixed pumpkin pie spice if you don’t have all those called for. Don’t want to mess with the bread crumbs at all? Omit them and the olive oil, and add the spices directly to the batter by whisking them with the flour in Step 3. Because this is a loaf in which I want the flavor of pumpkin to shine through most, I opt for using neutral-flavored vegetable oil in the cake, since olive oil would overwhelm it (and there’s already enough background flavor of it in the pumpkin puree and bread crumbs). Lastly, this loaf is a flatsy-tatsy on purpose. High-domed loaves are beautiful but to achieve them, the texture always suffers for me. I prefer these flat-top loaves, which have a very tender, moist crumb more akin to cake than bread.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans with some olive oil and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
Make the bread crumbs: Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and ¾ teaspoon salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, buttermilk, vanilla and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the pumpkin. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans then sprinkle each with half the spiced bread crumbs; if you like, sprinkle each with a pinch of flaky salt. Bake the loaves side by side until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of each loaf comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.
Transfer the pans to racks and let cool completely. Unmold and slice or wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Split the pumpkin from stem to blossom end. Scoop out and discard all the seeds and fibrous strings. Place the halves cut side up on the baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil, using your fingers rub it all over the exposed flesh. Season the pumpkin liberally with salt and pepper. Bake until the pumpkin is very tender and lightly caramelized at the edges, about 2 hours.
Remove the sheet from the oven and let the pumpkin cool. While it is still slightly warm, scoop the pumpkin flesh from the skins and either mash it or puree it in a food processor. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freezer for up to 2 months; thaw before using.
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