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Nuns' pumpkin bread could be a savior

April 9, 2009 |  4:54 pm

Pumpkinbread250 An economic slump that is jeopardizing the Monastery of the Angels in the Hollywood Hills could be a recipe for the destruction of a Hollywood tradition, say devotees of the convent's pumpkin bread.

The spicy bread hasn't changed since it was first baked as a replacement for fruitcakes the nuns sold each Christmas. They were forced to drop the cakes when the cost of ingredients -- whole cherries, pineapple, halved pecans and walnuts -- escalated in the early 1970s.

The switch to pumpkin bread came after Sister Mary Agnes used her Canadian grandmother's recipe one day to bake loaves to serve to other nuns at dinner.

"The bread vanished," a nun recounted to The Times in 1986. "Then she made loaves for Guild card parties and they disappeared. We decided to bake and sell 40 loaves at $1 a loaf. It also vanished. It got to be 80 loaves a day, and now 600 a day for those two weeks around Christmas."

These days the monastery produces 18,000 loaves a year, which sell for $9 each. And an expansion of that output could help generate revenue to offset the convent's losses in investments from declining donations, say volunteers hoping to prevent the monastery from being sold for development.

Nuns are skeptical that their bread can be duplicated. But over the years The Times has twice published the recipe. The last time, in 1974, food writer Rose Dosti wrote: "Bless the Monastery of Angels for this moist, delicious pumpkin bread."

So try it, if you think you have a prayer of a chance of replicating the monastery's pumpkin bread:

3½ cups sifted flour
3 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1½ tsp. salt
4 eggs beaten
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups canned pumpkin
Walnut halves

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Combine eggs, oil, water and pumpkin and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients. Turn into 3 greased loaf pans and top with a few walnut halves. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool before slicing. (Tastes best slightly warm, spread with butter.) Makes 3 1-3/4 lb. loaves.

--Bob Pool