Brioche is not exactly bread and it's not exactly cake. It's brioche, and it's made with flour, yeast. eggs, butter, and just a little bit of sugar and salt. I think of it as a very soft, light, and rich cake-like bread. In this case, pureed winter squash pulp (butternut or pumpkin, for example — in our case, potimarron) is added to the dough, along with small pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg.
French recipes for breads and cakes specify quantities by weight in grams, so they are hard to make without a kitchen scale. I've done my best to give equivalents in American teaspoons, tablespoons, and (8 fl. oz.) cups. For comparison, here's a recipe for plain brioche. It calls for more butter, milk, and eggs than go into the pumpkin brioche, because the moist squash pulp replaces some of those liquid ingredients. As with all bread recipes, you can carefully add a little extra flour if the dough seems too wet and sticky, or a little extra liquid like milk, cream, or water if it seems too dry.
2 fl. oz. lukewarm milk
20 g fresh cake yeast (¾ oz., or 2½ tsp. dry active yeast)
4 cups flour (500 g)
1¼ cups cooked, pureed pumpkin or squash pulp (300 g)
6 Tbsp. sugar (80 g)
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. softened butter (80 g)
2 eggs, beaten
1 pinch or grating of nutmeg (more to taste)
1 pinch cinnamon (more to taste)
Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk to proof it (wait for it to bubble and foam).
Make a very smooth puree of winter squash or pumpkin pulp. One way to do this is to roast a fresh winter squash or pumpkin in the oven and then scoop out the soft pulp and puree it until it’s a very smooth paste. Another way is to dice up the raw squash or pumpkin, cook it in a steamer pot, and then mash and puree it. When the squash puree has cooled down, put it in a mixing bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one) and add the beaten eggs, the salt, the sugar, and the spices.
Add the flour and the milk/yeast mixture and mix them into the squash puree (use the dough hook of the stand mixer). Knead it for 10 minutes. Add the softened butter until it is completely incorporated into the dough, which should form a ball and pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
Cover the mixing bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it has doubled in volume.
Take the risen dough out of the mixing bowl and put it on a floured work surface. Sprinkle a little flour over it and punch it down. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Put the balls of dough into a loaf pan (see photo.) Set the pan in a warm place and let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
Brush the brioche dough with an egg yolk beaten with a teaspoon of milk. Cook the brioche in the pre-heated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until it is golden brown. Test it with a skewer to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. Let it cool to room temperature before slicing or breaking off pieces and serving it. Slices are good lightly toasted.
Credit where credit is due: we found this pumpkin brioche recipe on a web site called La Cuisine de Jackie. And Walt made the brioche — I just took pictures.