When Judi Heer, proprietor of German John's Bakery in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, first made these orangey, pumpkin-shaped loaves, it was just for fun. Once her customers caught sight of them, though, she was busy filling orders for their Thanksgiving Day tables. Here's how you and your kids can shape one great big pumpkin or several smaller ones just like Judi's.
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Add the salt, margarine, and bread flour and combine.
Knead the dough on a floured tabletop, adding more flour if needed, until it is smooth and elastic but not sticky or soft.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turn it over once, then cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise just until it has doubled in bulk (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).
Punch down the dough. If you're making one large pumpkin, remove a walnut-size ball of dough for the stem. Place the remaining dough smooth side down on the table. (If you're making four small or two medium pumpkins, divide the dough accordingly and remove a piece for each stem.)
Shape each pumpkin by grasping the dough from the bottom, stretching it upward, and gathering it on the top. Repeat this process until you have a uniform ball. Then firmly pinch together the gathered dough in the center and turn over the ball. Now gently squeeze the middle of the pumpkin to make it stand as tall as possible.
Place the pumpkin on a parchment-paper-lined sheet pan. Grease one end of a toothpick and insert it into the dough stem so that it protrudes an inch from the top. Stick the other end into the pumpkin top. Then cover each pumpkin with plastic wrap and let it rise to twice its size.
Uncover the risen dough. Holding the stem, slowly twist the toothpick to loosen it but don't remove it.
In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of water with 30 drops of yellow and 6 drops of red food coloring. Transfer a half teaspoon of the mixture to a small saucer and stir in a drop of green food coloring.
Use a small pastry brush to paint the stem green (the brush should not be too wet). Gently apply a coat of orange to the globe using a larger brush and long, soft strokes. Let the paint dry for about 2 minutes.
With a sharp knife, lightly score the dough to create the pumpkin's vertical grooves (adults only).
Heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake the bread until its internal temperature is 190 degrees or it sounds hollow when you tap the crust (about 1 hour for a large loaf, 35 to 45 minutes for smaller ones).
Set the pumpkin on a cooling rack and twist the toothpick to remove it. If the crust seems soft, cool the bread completely, then bake it for another 5 to 10 minutes.