April 6, 2012
Zucchini Bread with Dates and Ginger

Zucchini bread is something I don’t make very often.  It’s always moist and delicious but doesn’t often jump to mind.  The other day I dug up a couple zucchini from the crisper that had seen better days.  You know where this is going.

I poked around the internets and came up with 101 Cookbooks’s special zucchini bread recipe.  I didn’t use Heidi’s special ingredients (curry powder, poppy seeds, and walnuts), but rather substituted my own: chopped dates and lots of fresh ginger.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dates, finely chopped
3 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium), skins on (I diced mine)
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup spelt flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour a loaf pan, or use parchment paper to line.

Combine dates, zest, and ginger in a small bowl.  Set aside.

In another bowl, beat butter until fluffy.  Add sugars and beat until combined.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add zucchini and gently incorporate.

In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in two batches, stirring to combine.  Gently fold in date mixture, taking care not to over mix.

Pour into loaf pan and bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  Turn out onto cooling rack (to prevent sweating) and cool completely.

Perfect for breakfast or a midday snack, this bread has something in it for everyone.  Moist and flavorful, it’s hard to stop after one slice.  Let’s just say it won’t be long before I make zucchini bread again.

Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks.

March 1, 2012
Quinoa Skillet Bread

I came across this recipe for quinoa skillet bread on 101 Cookbooks and had to make it immediately.  Rustic, wholesome, unique — it screamed late winter comfort food.  Plus it’s baked in a skillet.  Need I say more?

Given the cornmeal and the skillet, I was anticipating something akin to cornbread.  Aside from the golden crust and buttery aroma, cornbread doesn’t really come to mind when eating this.  Quinoa is most certainly the star.  A very moist and dense bread, it almost reminds me of custard.  As Heidi says, it is “rich with ribbons of varying texture.”  That it is.

More savory than sweet and gorgeously crusted, this quinoa skillet bread is the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of chili or hearty soup.  A unique, satisfying, stick-to-your-bones bread.  Late winter comfort food indeed.

Update: I nuked a slice and slathered it with pumpkin butter for breakfast this morning.  The warmth and spices brought out the buttery aromas and made for one tasty treat.

December 22, 2011
Jewish Apple (Cake) Bread

One of our friends throws an annual holiday party with a Jewish theme.  Last year was Jewasia.  This year was Jewspaña.  The idea is to bring food that involves both Jewish and Spanish/Latin American cuisines.  For example, there were jalapeño latkes and brisket tacos.  It fosters creativity and is a ton of fun.

Many people (like us) bring something that is representative of one cuisine, rather than both.  We brought challah with a roasted tomato and walnut spread and fresh guacamole with chips.  Everything we thought of that included both cultures either involved meat (veto that shit) or was already spoken for.  Hence we fibbed and brought two, but the bonus points definitely lie with those that can execute a Jewish and Spanish inspired offering, like sangria with Manischewitz.

I had hopped to make a Jewish apple cake for the party but didn’t have a bundt pan.  I finally nabbed one after running all over the city price-comparing and lamenting sold out shelves (apparently bundt pans are in high demand during the holidays) but then of course got sidetracked with an unexpected task and ran out of time.  So I made the cake a few days later for no reason in particular, except that I had a pile of apples and a hankering to see it to fruition.

I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, and will spare you my long-winded version of the preparation as Deb does it best.  I will say that the cake isn’t very sweet.  In fact, I wouldn’t call it a cake.  It’s more of a bread.  Sufficient for breakfast, even.  Once you consider it that way, the enjoyment exponentially grows.

Also, my cake/bread didn’t have the gooey center pictured on Smitten Kitchen.  It’s possible I baked it for too long.  I followed her instructions precisely and the landlord and I both thought it should’ve come out 15-20 minutes sooner, but I discounted our judgement and stuck to the rules.  Next time, shorter baking time.

With those two nitpicks in mind, I need to make it again.  I really want this cake/bread to be good.  I want it to be great.  It seems like such a comforting creation, and it comes out beautifully.  It would be the perfect complement at brunch, or a not-too-sweet end to a big meal shared with friends.  I love the idea of it.  I’ve set my sights on it.  I’m going to play with it until I love it.

July 5, 2010
Turd Bread

I’ve gotten into bread-making lately — delicious, nutritious, whole grain loaves are far too hard to come by, and good god that heady yeasty sent makes me swoon.  I don’t make bread nearly as often as I’d like; I’m still somewhat intimidated by all that kneading and “punching down” and lapsed periods of time required.  Bread recipes seem so damn hard.  I usually retreat in defeat without getting to the bottom of the page.

Enter Nigella Lawson.  Aside from Heidi Swanson, who is my go-to favorite for all things wholesome and healthy, Nigella is my go-to favorite for all things decadent and baked and impossibly delicious.  Need to impress an in-law? Perhaps a baked good for a housewarming?  Something sweet for your cranky boss?  Get thee to a bookstore.  How to Be a Domestic Goddess is amazing.  AMAZING.  And, along with Super Natural Cooking, is my favorite cookbook.  You have no idea what you’re missing.  Seriously.

So I’m paging through, trying to sort out which bread I’m going to make.  The last one was pretty fucking spectacular and would be hard to beat.  [Maple pistachio (although I subbed some other nut for the pistachios), which didn’t taste maple-y at all, yet was soft and light and crusty and loaded with whole grains (my substitutions) and oh man so good.]  And I was leaning toward another loaf, but the potato bread caught my eye and kept bringing me back; we had a leftover potato in the fridge just begging to be used to its fullest potential.  So potato bread it was.

I subbed Nigella’s self-rising bread flour for half amaranth flour and half whole wheat.  I’d never used amaranth before, and hence wasn’t aware that the flavor is so pronounced.  You know (or at least I did; the rest of my family claimed not to taste it) you’re eating amaranth.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes you want bread to taste like bread, and not like flavored bread.  Dig?  So next time I incorporate amaranth into anything, I’ll probably do so in a 1:2 ratio, not a 1:1 ratio.  Anyhoo.

One cooked and mashed potato (would’ve used two had I had another on hand), mixed with a generous pinch (or three) of salt, a big ol’ dollop of yogurt, a packet of yeast, a cup and a third of warm potato water, two cups amaranth flour, two cups whole wheat flour, and a fistful of all-purpose flour while kneading.  I used less salt than suggested, and probably less flour with the kneading than I could have.  Also, I added two healthy fistfuls of pumpkin seeds just for the hell of it.  All of the above yields some seriously sticky dough.  Roll into a ball, place into a well-greased bowl, cover with saran wrap, leave in a warm place (i.e., outside on the porch — Miami ain’t foolin’), come back, punch down, form into a loaf, cover with tea towel, admire pretty risen loaf, throw into oven.

The whole thing was easy and fun, even if the “damper and stickier than ordinary dough” comment was understated and then some.  It looked and smelled heavenly, and I was super excited.

And then it collapsed.  The bread that rose so enormously outside, and then again into such a promising looking loaf (and so rapidly, I might add), collapsed.  It imploded.  I was so eager and excited I kept pressing my face to the glass of the oven to peek at it.  And it was goooooorgeous.  Until around the fifteen minute mark.  And then — sunk.

Nigella discribes the bread as chewy, not airy.  It’s not dense, per say, but it’s not light or fluffy or sandwich bread-like.  It’s soup or breakfast bread-like.  Nor is it particularly crusty, but that is probably my fault, as since it imploded on itself I watched it like a hawk and pulled it out a full five minutes early, convinced I was overbaking it.  All in all though, it is good.  Particularly when dunked in chili-laced olive oil and paired with hearty soup.  Disheartened as I was that it collapsed into this midget loaf, it was still pretty tasty stuff.

Next time: two potatoes, less amaranth, full bake time.  And I’ll be ready for the collapse.

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