Friday, March 30, 2007

Cinnamon Raspberry Muffins

This is a slightly adapted muffin recipe and, if I do say so myself, they came out very nicely.

The flavor is gently sweet with a nice contrast between the warm, spicy cinnamon notes and the bright and fresh flavors from the raspberry jam. The crumb is tender and moist and the sugar topping even adds a bit of sparkle and charm. Overall, a pretty tasty breakfast treat.

Cinnamon Raspberry Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vanilla fat-free yogurt
1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 tablespoons buttermilk (use regular milk if you don't have buttermilk on hand)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. raspberry jam (or substitute another flavor)

1 tablespoon sugar (use more or less to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (use more or less to your taste)

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Place 12 muffin liners in a muffin tin.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 4 ingredients (sugar through salt) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In a small bowl, combine yogurt, butter, milk, and egg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add yogurt mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Batter will be thick

Spoon about one tablespoon batter into each muffin cup. Top each with about a teaspoon of jam. Top evenly with the remaining batter. For topping, combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter. Bake 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan, place muffins on wire rack, and allow to finish cooling.

Yield: 1 dozen (serving size: 1 muffin)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Smoked Cheese Pasta Bake

I'm not a big fan of smoked cheese so I don't know why I thought I might go for this recipe. It's sort of like going on a date with someone you know you only like as a friend: kind of pointless and a little bit sad.

Ok, it's not that it's bad. There ARE a number of things I do like about it.

1) Using reduced-fat sour cream to increase creaminess
2) Throwing in spinach to sneak in vegetables
3) Super easy to make
4) Comfort food without a gazillion calories

In a nutshell: I'll make this again, but I'll substitute the smoked mozzerella for part skim mozzerella or ricotta. (Sort of like dating his brother without questionable ethics.)

Smoked Cheese Pasta Bake

1 pound uncooked penne or rotini
1 (26-ounce) jar fat-free marinara sauce (I like Newman's Own Sockarooni)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat sour cream
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked farmer or mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

Heat marinara sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add salt, pepper, and spinach, stirring until blended; cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in cooked pasta.

Spoon half of pasta mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine sour cream, smoked cheese, and basil; spread over pasta mixture in dish. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture over sour cream mixture; sprinkle evenly with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Chocolate Haystacks

I'm averse to most low calorie dessert recipes. The majority of them are based on Cool Whip (which I've never been a fan of) mixed with other, powdered stuff.

Peanut Butter "Mousse" = Cool Whip + dehydrated peanut butter.
Oreo Fluff = crushed Oreos + sugar free instant pudding powder + Cool Whip.
This one (scroll down) uses colored Cool Whip as a frosting to top a cake made from a box mix and (I kid you not) a can of diet soda.

If this is the food that's being offered, no wonder people lose weight.

I did find one recipe, however, that isn't too bad: chocolate haystacks. Essentially, you melt 1o oz. of chocolate and use it to coat about 8 oz (a half package) of high fiber cereal. I'm sure that description won't win any fans. Maybe this one will: it tastes like a dark chocolate Kit Kat. (Well, a whole wheat, dark chocolate Kit Kat.) It sates a die-hard chocolate craving. Even kids like it.

So there you have it: a tasty low-cal dessert, with nary a dollop of Cool Whip in sight.

Chocolate Haystacks

10 oz. of chocolate (I used semi-sweet)
1 "sleeve" of high fiber cereal (like Fiber One) - about 8 oz.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Place chocolate in a large, microwave safe bowl and microwave for one minute at 40-percent power; stir. Continue microwaving at 30-45 second intervals at 30-percent power until chocolate is completely melted, being sure to stir between intervals.

Once chocolate has melted, add cereal and stir to fully combine. Drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheets, spacing about an inch apart. Allow haystacks to set before removing them from the sheet; store in an airtight container. Yields approximately 36 haystacks.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Easter Brunch Ideas

Fear not, bunny: hasenpfeffer isn't on the menu.

We're having a sizable crowd over for Easter this year: nine adults and four kids. I've decided to do brunch because:

A) it can be appropriately served anywhere from, say, 10 am to 1:30pm (and I don't know yet when people are going to arrive)


B) a lot of prep work can be done ahead of time, so I don't have to be chained to the kitchen when I'd rather be visiting with family.

Here's the menu I'm toying with:

Honey Baked Ham (Shane's mom ordered this -- thanks Sue! -- as part of a combo with a turkey breast. I think I'll save the turkey, as Shane's parents will be spending the week and we can always use a ready-to-eat meal.)
A strata (haven't decided which kind yet)
Baked French Toast
Roast potatoes or homefries
Roast asparagus
Fresh fruit
Irish Soda Bread (yes, hot cross buns are traditional, but this is pretty popular around here)
rolls, cheese and mustard (maybe ?) for ham sandwiches
coffee, tea, milk, OJ, Champagne (mimosas!)
Sugar cookies for the kids
Small chocolate bunnies for every guest (jellybeans for chocolate-hating Kian)

What do you think? I want to make sure there's something everyone will like (even the 18-month-old and the 3-year-old) and can tolerate (onions are out due to a guest's allergy, but scallions, leeks, shallots, etc., are in) . But God knows I always make more food than is needed. (My friend Nancy says it's the Italian in us -- too much food is fine but too little food is a disaster.)

Is there anything else I should make or substitute? Other suggestions?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Glazed Chicken with Carmelized Onions

Mmm, mmm! Steamy chicken goodness.

The original recipe is called Caramelized Onion Chicken but, frankly, this recipe doesn't have enough onions in it to justify that name. I doubled the amount of onions called for, and it still was pretty skimpy. So if you like onions (and I do), throw in two to three medium ones, sliced.

Having said all that, the chicken is delicious. There's a hint of sweetness from the jam (I swapped homemade strawberry for seedless raspberry) but that's balanced by the salt from the soy sauce and a tartness from the red wine vinegar. Minced ginger adds another dimension: all in all, a good meal. I paired this with roasted asparagus and balsamic roasted sweet potatoes.

Glazed Chicken with Caramelized Onions, née Caramelized Onion Chicken
1 pound chicken breast tenders
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup sliced onion (for lots of onion, use 2+ cups
1/2 cup strawberry or seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon bottled minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 2 minutes. Add chicken to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove onion and chicken from pan.
Add jam and remaining ingredients to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return chicken mixture to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces chicken and 1 tablespoon sauce)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Stovetop Mac-n-Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes

Two things I have been doing far too much of lately: Watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and craving, then eating, cheese.

The former will be soon remedied (Housewives' season is ov-ah! but lives on in reruns & TiVo) and the latter: oh, I don't know. I'm not usually a big fan of cheese but I've been crazy for it lately, particularly melted, gooey, and topping a starch.

One of the highlights of last weekend (Jenny & I high-tailed it to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake) was eating The Buttery's Welsh Rarebit. Mmmmmm, it was amazing testament to English muffins, Canadian bacon, and heaps of sharp cheddar cheese. (The perfectly crisp french fries topped with malt vinegar and salt didn't hurt either.)

Despite this past weekend's rendezvous with fat, salt and sugar (hey, chocolate! Where have YOU been?), I've still been trying to eat healthier foods, so the cheese cravings have had to work around that.

Another craving hit Monday, so I whipped up Cooking Light's Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes (sans the breadcrumb topping). I liked the macaroni, but the best part was the roasted tomatoes -- warm, rich, delicious.

It figures: in trying to sate my cheese craving, I wound up discovering a new way to prep tomatoes.

Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes

3 cups halved cherry tomatoes
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces sourdough bread, torn into pieces
1 teaspoon butter, melted
12 ounces large elbow macaroni
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated low-fat milk

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Place tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.

While tomatoes cook, place bread in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until crumbly. Toss crumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle the crumbs on a baking sheet, and bake for 12 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.

Cook macaroni in boiling water 7 minutes; drain. Return macaroni to pan; place over medium-low heat. Add cheese and remaining ingredients; cook 4 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring constantly. Stir in tomatoes. Sprinkle each serving with about 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

CALORIES 357 (29% from fat); FAT 11.4g (sat 6.6g,mono 3.1g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 18.1g; CHOLESTEROL 33mg; CALCIUM 350mg; SODIUM 669mg; FIBER 2g; IRON 2.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 45.2g

Friday, March 16, 2007

About the NYT's Irish Soda Bread

My great-grandmother, Margaret Mulligan née Cummins, emigrated from Ireland when (as family lore has it) she was 14. She left her parents, never to see them again, crossed the Atlantic, went through Ellis Island and resided with some not-so-nice family members in New York. She got married to an Irishman in New York who --yes-- owned a bar, drank like a fish, and ran around on her. They had five children before he up and left all of them, leaving my great-grandmother the burden of it all.

Really, it was enough to make anyone bitter, but that just wasn't in Grammie. By the time I came around, she was 86 and the nicest person on the planet. Perhaps she worried from time to time, but she was always kind, sweet and gentle.

Aside from the fuzzy memories I have to remember her by (she died when I was nine) I have her recipe for Irish soda bread. I am not exaggerating when I say it is the most fantastic Irish soda bread in existence. It does not go stale because it is gobbled up too quickly.

But for whatever reason, I'm not really ready to share the recipe -- or as i think of it, family secret. I have given it to one or two people in the past, which I regret. I'm not entirely sure why I'm so attached to it, or why I want to guard so much, but I do and until that changes, I'm going to honor that.

Having said all this, the NYT this week published a recipe for Irish soda bread and, though not exact, it's close to my great-grandmother's recipe (her's is simpler). Both recipes yield something much closer to a cake or quick bread than traditional bread. Plus, as the article points out, "any soda bread [the author has] tasted has been from within the five boroughs of New York," so it's entirely possible that Grammie got the recipe from a newspaper clipping or magazine article. Maybe it didn't sail over the Atlantic with her but still, I am fiercely protective of it.

So if you're looking for a recipe, give the NYT's a try, but know that it's not what my grandmother would have baked. For that, you'll have to visit me in person so I can hand you a slice of the good stuff.

Bring some quality Irish tea.

NYT's recipe for Irish Soda bread

Butter for greasing pan plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups raisins or currants
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Grease a 10-inch oven-proof skillet and line with parchment or waxed paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in the raisins or currants and caraway seeds.

Pour batter into skillet. Brush top with remaining butter. Bake until golden and firm to touch, about 1 hour.

Yield: 1 10-inch loaf.

Roasted Balsamic Sweet Potatoes

If I had to marry a vegetable dish, this would be the one: Mr. Right.

Roasting these sweet potatoes with a bit of balsamic, butter, and brown sugar gives a greater depth of flavor to their sweetness while adding complexity and a hint of richness.

Simply put, they are superb. Run, run, run to the kitchen and make them.

Roasted Balsamic Sweet Potatoes
(from the current issue of Bon Appetit)

¼ c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
½ stick unsalted butter
1 tsp coarse salt
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 ¼ inch chunks

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. In a skillet over medium heat, bring balsamic and sugar to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until vinegar thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Add butter and salt; stir until butter melts. Add potatoes to skillet; toss to coat.

Season potatoes with fresh ground black pepper & spread evenly on a rimmed, foil lined & oiled baking sheet. Bake until tender & golden, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Simple Roasted Asparagus

It's a gorgeous day. The sun is shining, the snow is melting, it's going to get up to SIXTY degrees today! (I didn't wear a coat to work.) The promise of spring is in the air, even if it's only going to get into the 30s tomorrow.

So let's celebrate with early season asparagus!

Roasting asparagus is my favorite way to prepare -- and eat-- them. They're crunchy, flavorful, and piping hot. It's just delicious, and could not be simpler to whip up. All they need is a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and they're ready to be pared with something casual, like roast chicken, or a dressier dish, like eggs Benedict or a fabulous Quiche Lorraine.

I made these the other night, and we snarfed them down pretty quickly. They were so good, I'm going to have to make them again very soon.

Simple Roasted Asparagus
1 1/2 pounds asparagus spears
1 -2 large garlic clove(s), minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Lightly spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking oil.

Snap off tough ends of asparagus; remove scales with a knife or vegetable peeler, if desired. Set aside.

Place garlic into the prepared baking dish, crushing the garlic into the pan a bit with the back of a wooden spoon. Add asparagus, drizzle with oil, tossing to coat. Sprinkle asparagus with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once.

Yield: 4 servings

Grade: A

Friday, March 09, 2007

Whole Lotta "Meh." -- Wacky Chocolate Cake

Wacky cupcake.

I made this recipe sometime last week and, clearly, was so unimpressed with it that it took me this long to post about it. (And then, only do a cursory review.)

Cake Pros:
Ridiculously easy to make
Easily adaptable (I threw in mini chocolate chips and replaced the water with strong brewed coffee
Silly Name

Cake Cons:
Lacking in delicious chocolate cake punch (though flavor was enhanced by the aforementioned chips and coffee)
Must be accompanied by a good frosting
Silly Name

And that's all I got to say about that.

Wacky Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened, nonalkalized cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375-degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt directly into the baking pan, then add the sugar. With your finger, poke 2 small holes and 1 large one in the dry ingredients. Into one of the small holes pour the vanilla, into the other one the vinegar, and into the larger one the oil.

Pour the water over all the ingredients and stir the ingredients together with a table fork, reaching into the corners, until you can’t see any more flour and the batter looks fairly well homogenized.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is springy and a tester inserted in the center comes out dry. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack, then cut and serve it from the pan.

Storage:Keep at room temperature, wrapped airtight, for up to 3 days; refrigerate after that.

Level of difficulty* [easy enough for a novice to make]

Makes one 8-inch square cake, or 8 to 12 servings.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cookbook Spotlight #3 -- Old Fashion Apple Cake

About a month ago, I was thrilled to get an invitation from Breadchick and Sara inviting me to participate in Cookbook Spotlight #3. After Breadchick posted a recipe from Ships of the Great Lakes Cookbooks: Discover Their Culinary Legends for Weekend Cookbook Challenge #13, the book’s publisher, Paula McKenna, contacted her and asked to be the subject of the first Cookbook Spotlight for 2007.

I jumped at the chance to participate. Not only do I get to participate, but I get a free book? I'm in!

A week or two later, my copy arrived in the mail (it even came with book jewelry). To quote the book’s website, “the voyage presented on the pages of this cookbook carries passengers on a culinary and historical cruise across the five Great Lakes of North America. Tall ships, passenger ships, Coast Guard vessels and magnificent steel freighters combine with beloved retired ships from days gone by in offering a glimpse into culinary secrets that have become legendary. Sailors from yesterday and today vividly bring to life an average day on board, from decks of ships that are anything but average. Talented cooks from each ship generously share their menus and recipes, bringing to life meals fit for kings and Great Lakes sailors!”

Each section is separated by a type of Great Lake ship: Tall Ships, Freighters, Coast Guard ships, Passenger Vessels and Retired Ships. These are further broken down by specific vessels (say, the M.V. Indiana Harbor) and its crew’s favorite recipes. So, not only are you getting a slew of time-tested dishes, but you’re also getting history behind the ships and people who sail them.

There aren't many “gourmet” recipes in here; this is food designed to be cooked in a galley for lots of hungry, hardworking people. There are four recipes for beef Stroganoff, four types of zucchini bread, and the “best fruit cake ever.”

Not that I have a problem with that: I love to eat haute cuisine, but I love to cook simpler fare. (And then eat it. )

My one issue with the book is the wide variation in yield between the recipes. Some, like the Garlic-Rosemary Roasted Chicken, serve a typical amount (in this case, 8 servings). Others, like the Bread Pudding, serve an army (or, more appropriately, a hungry crew of 75). Yet others don’t even mention how much they serve, forcing the reader to take an educated guess at how much the recipe will feed. (For example, the American Apple Bread calls for 2 pounds, 12 oz. sugar and 8 pounds apples and directs the chef to “bake in greased loaf pans at 375 degrees until bread tests done.” I like a bit more direction in my directions, and this vagueness dissuaded me from trying this recipe.)

But on to what I did make: Braised Pork Chops and Cabbage, Oven-roasted Baby Red Bliss Potatoes, and Old-Fashion Apple Cake.

The pork chops were very good: flavorful and smothered in onions and cabbage. The meat was a bit tougher than it should have been, but that’s probably my fault, not the recipe’s. (I always have a problem cooking meat.) The next time I make it, I’ll brown the chops for less time, and add more liquid for the braising.

From left to right, Oven-roasted Potatoes, pg. 39 and Braised Pork Chops and Cabbage, pg 103

Roasted potatoes are always good: starch, oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. What’s not to love? I scaled it down from 12 servings to 4 and we devoured the entire batch. (Probably could have taken on all 12, too.)

But my favorite of this trio was the Old-Fashion Apple Cake.

Old Fashion Apple Cake, page 413

The cake itself is moist, rich, and dark, studded by chunks of apples and nuts. It could stand well on its own, but topped by a smooth and sweet-yet-tangy cream cheese frosting, the sum total is really superb.

It really is an old-fashioned cake -- something out of grandma's kitchen -- and it’s definitely a cake to try. (And I keep trying it. All day long, I've made sneaky sojourns to the 'fridge, sampling bits of frosting and crumbs.)

The original recipe appears below as in the cookbook; my changes appear in the comments section. (I slimmed things down a bit and made a few editorial changes. I can't help it: "old fashioned" looks better to me than "old fashion.")

Thanks to Mary (aka Breadchick) & Sara, the wonderful hosts of Cookbook Spotlight #3.

Old-Fashion Apple Cake

4 c. apples, peeled, diced
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
2 eggs
½ c. oil
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ c. butter
1 (3 0z.) pkg. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

To prepare cake combine apples with flour; toss to coat. Ass remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Batter will be very stiff. Bake in greased 9x13-pan at 350 degrees 45 to 60 minutes.

Combine frosting ingredients and beat until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled cake.

Grade: A

Monday, March 05, 2007

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #14 Submission: Midinette

Of all cookbooks I have, a plain, black binder from Peter Kump's Cooking School is my favorite. It's stuffed with class recipes, and its pages retain scribbled notes, oil splashes, and traces of ancient flour.

Though it's an amazing book, it usually lies untouched on the bookshelf. When I think of its recipes, I remember its seafood risotto, banana souffle, osso bucco -- not dishes eaten on a normal workday. Nor is it as colorful as its other cookbook neighbors: Nick Magleri's Chocolate, Barbara Kafka's Roasting, Amy Sedaris' I Like You.

WCC#14 seemed like the perfect opportunity to both remember why it's so good and to find simpler, untried recipes.

It's recipe for Midinette could not be simpler. Or more delicious.

Julienne of apples, chicken, celery, Gruyere cheese; mayonnaise thinned with vinaigrette.

Combine ingredients and toss. Season with salt and pepper.

Grade: A

Classic Vinagrette

From an old Peter Kump's Cooking School class.

Classic Vinaigrette
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3/4 c. olive or vegetable oil, or a combination of both
Salt and pepper of taste

In a small bowl, whisk the acid with the mustard until the mustard has dissolved. Slowly, in a thin stream, add the oil whisking constantly until the oil is completely incorporated. Season with the salt and pepper.

Note: Creme fraiche may replace all or part of the oil. Egg yolks may be added to enrich the vinaigrette. If made without yolks or cream, the vinaigrette may be held indefinitely in the refrigerator. Shake or whisk to re-emulsify it, if necessary.

If the vinaigrette break, place a teaspoon of mustard in a bowl and whisk in the broken vinaigrette, slowly in a thin stream, until it is completely incorporated.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bittman's Quick Bread

The last time Mark Bittman published a bread recipe, there was a largely positive response from the food blogging community. So, when a new recipe for whole wheat and molasses quick bread appeared in the NYT yesterday, I thought I'd take a crack at it.

Unlike most quick breads, this is a savory loaf. Extolling their virtures, Bittman writes, "savory breads that can anchor a hearty vegetarian dinner or serve as a side dish at a more conventional meal. " Extremely easy to pull together, the recipe produces a very pretty finished product. It's a hearty and dense loaf with a lovely rich color and a scant sweet smell from the molasses.

But I'm not the biggest fan of whole wheat bread, so I'm not crazy about it. I toyed with adding raisins -- which would make things sweeter -- but didn't, and I regret that. That's not to say it isn't a good recipe; clearly, the recipe uses good ingredients and yields a quality loaf. If you're a whole wheat fan, I'm sure this will float your boat. But it's not my thing.

Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread

Oil or butter for greasing pan
1 2/3 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt, or 11/2 cups milk and 2 tablespoons white vinegar (see note, below)
2 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup molasses.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-by-4-inch or 9-by 5-inch loaf pan, preferably nonstick. [I greased the pan, then dusted it with whole wheat flour--LR]
If using buttermilk or yogurt, ignore this step. Make soured milk: warm milk gently — 1 minute in the microwave is sufficient, just enough to take the chill off — and add vinegar. Set aside.

Mix together dry ingredients. Stir molasses into buttermilk, yogurt or soured milk. Stir liquid into dry ingredients (just enough to combine) then pour into loaf pan.
Bake until firm and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.

Yield: 1 loaf.