Pumpkin Yeast Bread

As seen on Pennies on a Platter

5 1/2 cups bread flour
1 pkg (1/4 oz) instant or fast rise yeast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled

Mix the flour, yeast, spices, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and whisk in the pumpkin puree and butter. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the liquid ingredients. Continue mixing on low until the dough is elastic and supple, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency - soft, but not sticky.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel. Set the dough aside to rise until it has doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough in half, then cut each half into three equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a 10-inch rope.

Working with three ropes at a time, place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Braid them together, pinching the ends together and tucking them under the loaf. Repeat with the remaining logs. Set the braids aside, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap or a damp dish towel, to rise for 1 hour; they should look puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.

Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375˚F. Bake the loaves for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center reads 185-195˚F. Remove the braids from oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack. Serve them warm or at room temperature.

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