Posts Tagged ‘Quick Breads’
So in what seems like forever ago, I made a post that featured my favorite cornbread recipe. It’s from Cook’s Illustrated, who describes it as a Northern-style cornbread: there’s a quarter-cup of brown sugar, a stick of butter, and you bake it in a glass dish. When I make it, the thick cake-like squares that we cut out of the dish remind me of my beloved meals growing up when my mom would serve my siblings and I Jiffy cornbread muffins that we cut open and slathered with butter and honey. It’s a good cornbread recipe, or so I thought.
In what also seems like forever ago, I got an email from a reader (or actually more likely someone who stumbled on my blog for a one-time-thing and who will never see it again—Charles, if you’re reading this, let me know!) who told me that I have been doing cornbread all wrong. He’s from the South, and apparently having more flour than cornmeal is blasphemous or something. He referred me to this recipe, and said it was for my own good that I try it.
This recipe is most definitely made with a much higher ratio of cornmeal—and stone-ground, medium-grind cormeal, that is—to flour, and you cook it in a hot cast-iron skillet that’s been coated with some butter. Two notes here: One, as you can tell, I used a cake pan, because I don’t even own a cast-iron skillet (I know, I know, still more blasphemy). And two, although the recipe says you should use unsalted butter, I’m going to go ahead and be a little prissy and say you shouldn’t. The salted butter that coats the pan gives the crust of the cornbread a delicious salty edge to it, much the same way that the salted butter wrapped around the crust of these favorite buttermilk biscuits of mine.
Besides those details though, I think this cornbread follows a similar logic and make-up that most do. Those small changes though produce a very different cornbread, though, and one that I think Charles might be right about. It most definitely tastes…”cornier”… than my previous go-to cornbread, and it’s got a grittier texture. As Charles told me, there’s “just enough” flour to allow the bread to hold together, so what you end up with is more crumbly and less cakey. It feels more rustic to me, and it makes me want to pack up some wedges in a kitchen towel to carry off for a picnic in the sun.
I, of course, haven’t done that but instead have been eating it with some turkey chili that I cooked up (it was not only made with ground turkey but also had beans in it—the blasphemy, I can’t ever escape it!!). The chili itself is nothing to write home about. But this cornbread—yes, this is something. If I were to be honest with you, if I just had to eat a wedge of any type of cornbread by itself, I still prefer my Cook’s cornbread. When it comes to the simple topping of butter and honey, that’s when that strong force of nostalgia takes over and I can’t refuse the cake-like-Jiffy-but-better recipe. Regarding this, I would never admit that I am a self-respecting Southerner, because frankly I’m a Northerner who shamelessly prefers more sugar in everything. However, this Southern-style buttermilk version here is the one I will most likely be making from now on, for everything from chili to soups to turning it into cornbread-crumbs. Charles was right; he did me a favor.
One Year Ago: Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds (oh, that’s a good one)
1 3/4 cup (9 ounces) stone-ground, medium-grind cornmeal
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
heaping 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into a few pieces
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Place a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet or a heavy-duty round metal baking tin on the rack. Let it heat up while the batter is prepared, at least 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups of the cornmeal, the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 up water to a boil. Once at a boil, combine with 1/2 cup of the cornmeal in a large bowl. Stir until the mixture becomes a thick mush. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, add in the buttermilk, sour cream and eggs. Using a whisk, mix to blend.
At this point, if the oven and pan are fully heated, sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet corn mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until just blended; do not overmix.
Remove the hot pan from the oven and add the butter pieces, carefully swirling the butter around as it melts to completely coat the pan. (My butter didn’t brown at all, but if it does, that’s fine.) Immediately pour the melted butter over the batter. Stir briefly just to combine in the butter. Scrape the batter into the hot pan, and smooth out the top.
Bake until the cornbread’s browned edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the bread is golden on top, about 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool briefly for a minute. After loosening the edges, turn the bread out on to a rack to cool for a few minutes. Serve hot, with butter.
I tend to go through phases with things. Oftentimes, these phases are decided by the seasons. I’m not talking about seasonal phases like I only get strawberries in the peak of July or grapefruits in January, as much as I wish that were true. No, I’m referring to general-outlook-on-the-world-and-everything-around-me seasonal phases. My “winter” phase has kicked in late this year, but it’s the same as always: I get a bit anti-social, a little intense, and I get really into abstract things like ideas/music/art/books, etc. I’m not sure how I got in the mindset that the farther away I stay from real humans, the closer I can get to “real” humanity…but no matter! I do not question these phases, silly though they may be, because I honestly really enjoy them.
In the phase I’m in right now, the only things I’ve felt like doing are a.) go for really long walks while listening to music (this song + 90′s seattle grunge + the velvet underground), b.) go to my classes (not kidding), or c.) cook and/or bake. Nice combination of activities, eh? But they all seem to go together, and they all have a kind of serene pensiveness to them.
I made these muffins sometime last week after spending the day walking in the cold with the clear sun (and finding two bags of raw hazelnuts in my freezer). I wasn’t planning to blog about them, but I think they turned out too good not to share. They’re from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, though I originally saw them in an Elle à Table my brother got me around Christmastime (where, curiously, they refer to Kim Boyce’s book as Les Deuze Farines. Language-y things are always so peculiar). I of course could barely a read a thing the recipe was asking for, so I followed the recipe on Lottie and Doof instead. I think you’ll forgive me—the muffins would have hardly turned out so nicely.
In Kim Boyce’s classic style, she uses a combination of whole-grain flours in order to add a bit of nutrition and some very cool flavors without compromising any of the texture or taste. In these hazelnut muffins, she uses all-purpose, whole-wheat, and teff flours. If I were to be completely honest with you, which I’m afraid I must be, I substituted the teff flour for oat flour. I know, I know! But I was at the store and the only teff flour available was in a large $15 bag and I just couldn’t do it! I will say, though, that the muffins were awesome the way I made them, and I can only imagine what they’d be like if I had used teff flour, as Boyce originally calls for.
Anyway, I was compelled to share these with you, in case you hadn’t made them or seen them before on another site, because they are pretty impressive. I really, really liked the hazelnuts in these—Boyce adds roughly chopped ones in the batter but also calls for them sprinkled in with cinnamon-nutmeg sugar to top the muffins with (my absolute favorite part of these muffins). Plus! You don’t have to toast and peel the nuts, which I find very clever and convenient seeing as peeling hazelnuts always sounds much cooler and easier than it actually is. And the crumb, made with butter but also a fair amount of yogurt and buttermilk, is tender, moist, but with structure. They’re a classic muffin to have, in my opinion.
You can find the recipe here (I didn’t make any changes besides the aforementioned shameful flour substitution). Make sure you follow Kim’s tip, mentioned by Tim in his post, of spacing out the batter into every other cup so that there’s plenty room between them. It really does make a difference in how high the domes rise.
One Year Ago: Crunchy, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Coconut and Nuts
I know this little quick-bread loaf of a thing doesn’t look like much, but it’s exactly what I’ve been wanting.
Most of Tuesday was an off day. It began with an early-morning appointment with a professor who basically crushed in 30 seconds all of the research and planning for my thesis I had accumulated over the past two months; worries about getting a job this semester to save up money, and thus widen the buffer between how long I can stay suspended in fantasy without a job, began to creep in; the fact that Waylon now lives 6,000 miles away from me has been slowly setting in—everything just started combining and combining. These are normal whiney things of the sort that everyone goes through every so often. Yet no matter how many days of those one has, or how common it is that people have such days, it never seems to lessen the blow, does it?
But, miraculously!, the bitterness of that morning was not destined to last all day. Thesis worries abated and were given new-found motivation from the generous help of my thesis adviser (she’s one of those people that is kind and comforting and inspiring and just the right amount of eccentric all in one—my favorite), the sun started shining, and “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart started playing on the radio. And before you laugh embarrassingly for me, just know that I’d never really listened to the song before, and hearing the nice-to-the-point-of-cheesy lyrics was just the sort of thing I was in the mood for. One lyric in particular, “may sunshine and happiness surround you when you’re far from home,” particularly resonated with me. When I reached home, instead of reaching for academia-things, I baked.
I’m assuming, by the fact that you’re reading this in the first place (are you still reading this?), that many of you are acquainted with the soothing practice that is baking. Of how satisfying the instant gratification of it all can be, when you measure this and that, blend them together, and bake it all up to make something that’s quite a bit more than the sum of its parts. Even in my case, where I under-shot the time it’d take to bake this cake—I am both weary and paranoid of over-cooked, dry cakes—which led for the top to sink slightly in the middle, it was still something to behold (besides, I don’t mind a little bit of squidgyness on the top of a loaf cake). There’s just something about the calm dreaminess that is baking.
I’m happy that this is what I decided to bake, as this cake is of the low-maintenance and intuitive sort, neither too sweet or densely rich (thank you, yogurt!), and the vibrancy of the grapefruit makes for a special-tasting cake. I know it may sound a little weird, to envision that bitter, tart flavor that is grapefruit locked in cake form, but it really does work. While it’s hard to distinguish the grapefruit flavor in the crumb—it tastes more generically citrus-lemony—the grapefruit-honey syrup poured on top of the cake once out of the oven makes for an unnoticeable grapefruit taste on the top. I really like it (along with the stickiness that the syrup contributes to the texture). A few friends stopped by for dinner last night, and after we finished eating we sat around the table munching on thick slices of this cake for dessert. Everyone liked it, a lot, so keep that in mind if you’re having doubts about grapefruit cake.
With that being said, I really liked this yogurt-based cake and I think it’d taste great with all types of citrus. If I were the kind of person that liked things like blueberries or raspberries in my baked goods, I’m sure that’d be good with a lemon-yogurt cake. It’s a simple, seamless cake to keep in mind next time a bad or especially chilly day strikes.
As I mentioned above, this cake would do well with any citrus flavors. I would just substitute 1 for 1 the amounts of grapefruit called for.
butter, for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of one grapefruit (about 1 tablespoons)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plain whole-milk, plain yogurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
juice of one grapefruit (about 1/2 cup), divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons honey
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt to combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and grapefruit zest on medium until fragrant and the zest is well dispersed, about 1 minute. (This releases the essential oils of the zest better, making a more flavorful cake.)
Add in the eggs, and beat until the mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the yogurt, vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of the grapefruit juice (reserving the rest) and the vanilla extract. Beat to combine. Sprinkle in the flour mixture and, on a low speed, stir until all the ingredients are combined, making sure to not overbeat.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is goden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with just some crumbs attached. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.
While the cake is baking and cooling, make the syrup by combining the honey and grapefruit juice in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the syrup has reduced a little bit, about 10 minutes.
Pierce the cake all over (like, all over) with a skewer or a toothpick, letting it go about 1 to 2 inches deep. Pour the warm grapefruit syrup slowly and evenly over the cake. After letting that rest for a few minutes, run a knife along the edge of the pan and invert. Serve in thick slices. To store, I wrapped mine in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil–it got better and better as the days went on.
The past couple years, I’ve tried to usher a new tradition in with my family’s usual habits around the holidays. Now that the rest of my three siblings and I don’t wake up before 7 am on Christmas morning anymore, I’ve taken to waking up about twenty minutes earlier than everyone else to make a quick batch of cream biscuits. Once they are freshly baked, we spread the biscuits out on the coffee table along with butter and some jam, and spend a happy Christmas moment in front of the tree and presents and stuffed stockings. Only after we feel we’ve had our fill of breakfast indulgence do we then proceed to calmly exchange gifts with one another. It’s funny how as we’ve grown older it’s not really about the presents anymore.
I don’t feel any longing to go back to the days where all I anticipated were the mounds of presents on Christmas morning, but I do have a sort of nostalgia for the days during Christmas break back in that era of elementary and middle school where I would wake up early in the cold morning and find my sisters and brother already playing Zelda (ocarina of time, of course) of Sims or some such other video game of my generation. Feeling a little disappointed that they beat me to the game, I would cry that they would have to let me play in approximately one hour—that was the time limit my mom forced us to abide by when we all wanted to play the same game.
Luckily enough, I came out into the kitchen a couple of days before Christmas this year to find my now 24-year-old brother (who is an engineer) installing and playing SimCoaster on an old laptop. (I guess now would be an okay time to admit that just last night I spent a good hour or two on that SimCoaster thing. What? I’m graduating college in a semester?) Maybe the good things about family and being together never change—we’re all kids when we’re home, whether we’re not crazy about presents anymore or not. Still kids, with more mature tastes and an appetite for cream biscuits and jam over hungerly grabbing for our weighty stockings. I’ll take it.
Anyway, these biscuits are pretty perfect. They are as simple as can be: you add cream to a flour mixture, roll it out, cut out little biscuit shapes, brush a little butter on them, and bake them. They are most definitely simple enough to make Christmas morning, or really any morning at all. My poor brother has a birthday only three days after Christmas, and that morning I woke up just before him and, at the urging of my mother, made an impromptu batch of them to serve as his birthday breakfast (he really, really likes these biscuits). If you’ve got cream in the fridge, you’re good to go.
It’s important to draw a distinction about these biscuits, though. As Deb clearly states, these are not the sturdy buttermilk kind that you slather with pork sausage gravy or use to eat alongside some hearty stew or chili, but rather the kind you delicately eat with butter and jam. If I were being honest with you, this is my favorite type of biscuit, but I can so confidently assert that only because my sweet tooth tends to have more influence over my will than, say, my … savory tooth. (Really, why do we get a sweet tooth but not a savory one?) But I am that sure anyone would love to wake up to these, any morning of the year, but especially during the holidays.
I’ve made these using cutter-rounds ranging from a little less than 2 inches to almost 3 1/2. I like the smaller size, but I think that’s a personal preference. Whatever size you use, trust your instincts on taking them out rather than relying on a set time. If they’re about 2 inches, they might need no more than 9 or 10 minutes. If larger than 3 inches, they might take as long as 14 minutes.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium-large bowl to combine. Add the cream and gently fold it in until it’s a cohesive mass. Do not over-stir; if the mixture is looking dry or unmanageable add a tablespoon or two more of cream.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and, using your hands, begin pressing it together and out to form a thick rectangle. Gently fold over one half of the dough onto itself—this will create the layer in the middle of the biscuits. Re-pat it down to the thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. Using about a 2 1/2-inch diameter cutter, cut out the dough into rounds. Gently gather up remaining scraps to make more rounds. Brush the tops of the biscuits liberally with the melted butter, and before putting them on the prepared baking sheet, brush a bit of butter directly on the parchment where the biscuits will be set down.
Bake until the tops of the biscuits are just golden, about 10 to 13 minutes. Serve warm, with butter and jam.