Pumpkin Cornbread with a French Twist

Squash turns this naturally gluten-free dish into a light, moist bread worthy of nights around the fire.


I first made this bread for Thanksgiving about 40 years ago, and I’ve been making it for that holiday ever since. This bread captured my imagination from the first loaf, because it’s delicious, beautiful, and different.

Lighter and moister than most cornbreads, this bread has many uses. The gorgeous yellow color, light open crumb, and warm flavor blend well with traditional holiday meals centered around turkey or ham, and it’s also good in stuffings.

For breakfast, I recommend it toasted with cream cheese, or as French toast. Cornbread with cream cheese is a marriage made in heaven — definitely a good choice for a special brunch. As French toast, it will elevate a weekend breakfast. Soaked in milk and egg, the crumb softens, but retains a lovely texture — soft, but never soggy. And maple syrup brings out the bread’s warm tonalities.

On winter afternoons, when sunset comes too soon, I serve this cornbread with butter and honey along with strong tea or coffee in front of a fire in my fireplace. Another dish I enjoy is a slice spread with Gorgonzola, a soft Italian blue cheese.

Cookbook Chronicles

I found the basic recipe for this pumpkin cornbread in The Breads of France, a 1978 cookbook by Bernard Clayton Jr. He attributes the recipe to the French Basque Country in the Pyrenees mountain range, but this is probably too precise. I’ve come to understand it as part of a class of French pumpkin cornbreads broadly associated with southern France — not just the Basque region. While documentation is sparse, it’s clear this bread is based on an old tradition.

Krista Morien
12/22/2020 11:02:59 PM

I came home to the smell of this yeasty bread, straight out of the oven, and my husband and I both thought it was excellent. Beautiful color, wonderful texture and flavor. We enjoyed it warm with butter alongside a homemade soup tonight and will try it with cream cheese for breakfast tomorrow. We used butternut squash from our garden instead of pumpkin (we prefer winter squashes to pumpkin for all recipes). My husband was the baker and he did put in 4 tbsp. of sweetener (we like xylitol from birch, a healthy sweetener that doesn't affect blood sugar levels). **If you use xylitol, however, be sure to keep it and the bread away from pets (they cannot metabolize xylitol).

11/15/2020 10:12:25 PM

well, this was really disappointing, I had to try this recipe as soon as I got my latest issue and so excited to see cornbread made with yeast and no wheat. Well, it was "ok" but not something I'd gift someone with as I'd planned. So I read up a little about pumpkin cornbread and even French. Everything I read says that yeast with only cornmeal is useless, because it needs gluten to create the elastic strands. I used the 4 oz of whiskey but also a tablespoon of sugar but felt it still needed jam to be really palatable. I didn't find the texture particularly appealing, either, altho it was similar to picture. Have been making bread for 40 years so this wasn't exactly an experiment. I'd recommend using a cup of flour and will try again with this, close to other recipes found online. However, I ordered Mr. Rubel's book before I made this, hoping other recipes in there are more useful, along with the history.

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