Pumpkin Sweet Bread? Why, yes, after all auyama, or West Indian pumpkin, is one of the star ingredients of the Dominican cuisine, so it’s natural for us to explore new and creative ways to use it.
Auyama appears in breakfast dishes like mazamorra and in soups including crema de auyama. It plays an important supporting role in top billed dishes like habichuelas, guandules, asopao, sancocho, and pasteles en hoja (Dominican-style tamales) and crosses over to desserts like flan de auyama. We even featured it in a vegan ponche de auyama of our creation. At the same time, mashed auyama is an excellent baby and toddler food thanks to its gentle flavor, rich nutrients and soft texture.
West Indian pumpkin, as its name suggests, is common across the Caribbean region. In neighboring Haiti, Soupe Joumou is a traditional New Year’s Day soup made with pumpkin. In Jamaica pumpkin can be found in curries and pies as well as in soups. Puerto Rico has pumpkin fritters with the curious name of barriguitas de vieja. In the United States, of course, pumpkins are associated with autumn and are central features of Halloween celebrations in the shape of Jack-o’-Lanterns, and the Thanksgiving dinner favorite, pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins or squashes come in many shapes and sizes, and auyama is also used as the name for several varieties of pumpkins and squashes like Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita maxima (kabocha squash).
Also known as ayote and calabaza squash, auyama is the name by which it is known in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Colombia. Some also spell it ahuyama, but auyama seems to be the most commonly accepted spelling. In Cuba and Puerto Rico it is called calabaza, the standard Spanish name for pumpkin. In Panama and much of South America it is zapallo. Ayote is a Nahuatl word, while auyama is probably of Taino origin.
Like their counterparts in many other parts of the Americas, the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Hispaniola are known to have cultivated and eaten auyama, which was unknown in the Old World before 1492. The earliest indications of the pumpkin’s arrival in Europe appear in early 16th century paintings and literature.
Auyama has a lot going for it as well as its subtle taste and versatility as an ingredient. Its color can range from pale mustard to bright orange. It breaks up easily when cooked, and the resulting creamy texture adds thickness to soups and stews, and it is a very healthy food. Auyama is low in calories, fat and carbohydrates, rich in vitamins A and C and potassium. If that were not enough, it is a relatively inexpensive foodstuff and it grows very easily.
Hard to find another ingredient that ticks all these boxes!
- ⅓ cup of water, warm to the touch
- ½ cup of coarse brown sugar, divided
- 4 tablespoons of butter, plus more to grease pan
- 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
- 1½ cup of all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of mashed boiled auyama (or kabocha squash)
- ¼ cup of raisins
- 1 tablespoon of cinnamon powder
- Combine warm water, half the sugar and 4 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until foamy.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Mix in the the yeast mixture and mashed auyama. Mix in the mixer using the hook at medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the mixer and cover the bowl with a clean tea towel. Let it rest for an hour, or until the dough doubles in volume.
- Start the mixer again over low speed, stir in raisins until it's well mixed, but be careful not to overwork the dough.
- Grease a 6-cup non-stick bundt mold with the remaining butter. Sprinkle the bottom with the sugar, followed by the cinnamon powder. Pour the dough into the bowl. Cover and let it rest in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 ºF [190 ºC].
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until you poke with a skewer and it comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the mold.