Baking (and living) from intuition.

I'll say this: I don't follow rules well. I never have. I've written about this before.

My poor mother had to bail me out for getting in trouble several times in school. It was a theme for me growing up. I never did it to be intentionally bad or unruly, I just always had a disposition that bucked rules if they seemed unfair or unnecessary.

I still live my life this way, for better or for worse. I think it's better, honestly. It's served me quite well to not follow the herd. 

And it especially happens when I cook, which is often now that I've moved to such a peaceful setting. Something about my new retreat-like home makes me want to cook and cook around the clock. My pots and pans are working overtime!

In all that cooking, I don't follow recipes well and hardly take notes of what I'm doing. It's why I stopped posting recipes a few years into my coaching business because I began to dread the experience of measuring and monitoring and translating so other people could do what I did. 

Know why? Because it doesn't work. Copying other people is probably the least effective to truly be yourself, even when it comes to copying a recipe. Something simple like that can be an opportunity for you to throw caution to the wind and just do YOU.

I did that this weekend when I made some pumpkin bread from scratch and WITHOUT A WORKING OVEN KNOB. I successfully baked something using hardly any rules and no certainty about the temperature of the oven. 

And the whole process felt incredibly good and freeing and I thought I'd pass it onto you and encourage you try something like this for yourself. I will add the loose recipe I used and the process only to convey the story of what happened. Do with it what you want and will. :)

So, I recently moved into a renovated barn with a good-sized kitchen and a stove that is tiny and perfect. After a year of using an electric stove in my brownstone apartment in Boston, I was THRILLED to have a gas stove again. Thrilled. With a capital T. Did I say thrilled

While giving the new place a deep clean, I realized the numbers and settings on the stove knobs had all been worn away from (many) years of use. Who needs to know simmer from low to high? I could tell by the flame size. Totally no biggie. But the oven? Hmm. Yeah, you need to know temperature to bake things.

Or so I thought!

My landlord is on the case. The knob is coming. But impatient, slightly petulant me is stubborn enough to move forward anyway. It's this quality that makes me a successful entrepreneur. I don't get stopped. 

I was already mixing up my pumpkin bread recipe when I remembered, whoops, no numbers on the oven dial. I shrugged and took it on as a practice of surrendering perfectionism. I realized it bordered on slightly ridiculous and perhaps wasteful to put all those ingredients together with no certainty they would come together to yield something but hey, welcome to LIFE, amiright??

After scanning some recipes, I realized there is no ONE way to make pumpkin bread and started combining ideas from different places. I had one loaf pan. The main recipe I was using called for two pans of a different size. I shrugged again and best-guessed my way through the amounts listed. Halving each one made pretty good sense to me. I was doing ok until I forgot to halve the salt. So, my bread is a little salty, like me. 

I used whole wheat flour when it called for fine white. I used Sucanat when it called for white sugar. I added cranberries and chocolate chips and walnuts because, #fall

I was making it up like a work of art and when it came time to put it in the oven, I wished it luck like the pieces of clay sculpture we fired in the kiln when I was in high school. Crossed fingers and no attachment to the outcome. 

I called my mom to chat and told her what I was doing, including the way I used oven matches to test it because I had no toothpicks. My mother laughs at me. She knows I always find a way. We best-guessed where the knob was and the temperature it was likely at and talked about Hillary and movies and books. When I thought it was done, I pulled my creation out of the oven and let it sit on a bamboo cutting board to cool. Do I need one of those wire cooling racks? Nah. 

Well, friends. It came out just fine. Maybe a little sunken. Not perfectly shaped. But moist and spiced nicely and FULL of tasty additions and perfectly suitable for my needs. I sliced half and froze it right away and will consume the rest one slice at a time. 

Yep. I made it up and cooked it from intuition and I'll be damned it the whole process didn't open me up a bit more to write this blog post after taking a substantial hiatus.

And with that, here's the recipe. Please play and post your own results in the comment below!

PUMPKIN8 BREAD with chocolate chips, walnuts and cranberries

* use organic ingredients whenever possible


  • 1 15-oz can  pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix--and you're only using HALF the can)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar (I used Sucanat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • large handful dark chocolate chips
  • large handful juice-sweetened cranberries (soak in warm water for best results)
  • large handful walnuts, finely chopped


Preheat over to 350F

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl combine butter and sugar and mix well. I used a fork, you can use a hand-beater. Add one egg at a time and beat well. Add pumpkin and water and stir. Combine wet mixture with dry ingredients and fold in well but don't over stir. Add chocolate chips, cranberries and walnuts, stir until they are blended in.

Pour mixture into loaf pan lined with parchment paper. I didn't line my paper with butter and it turned out fine. The only thing I would have done differently is spread the batter out a bit more so it settled into the pan.

Bake for 65-75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in loaf pan for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside on a rack or board to cool for at least an hour before cutting. 


And there you have it. Perfectly awesome pumpkin bread baked intuitively. 

And there you have it. Perfectly awesome pumpkin bread baked intuitively.