Rosemary & Bittersweet Chocolate Quick Bread

rosemary-chocolate-bread-recipe

My favorite baking book this year has to be Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours. The recipes are wholesome, accessible and appealing; the photography has a warm, rustic simplicity that I love. When I browse through the book I want to make – and taste – just about everything in it.

I’ve been experimenting with switching out butter for olive oil in baking, which led to Olive Oil & Cocoa Brownies a few weeks ago. I’ve also had this recipe for Olive Oil Cake from Kim Boyce’s book flagged for months, and after making it a few times I can say it’s definitely a keeper.

These are perfect little breads to give as gifts, or to snack on when you crave a bite of something not-too-sweet.

rosemary-chocolate-bread-recipe

I have a special place for rosemary in my cooking, so any time I see an opportunity to highlight its distinctive piney-lemon character I jump in to explore.

The first time I baked this lightly sweet cake (to me it’s actually more of a quick bread than a cake), I threw in some freshly grated lemon zest. Lemon is a nice partner with the fruity taste of the olive oil and chocolate, but it got a little lost in there.

Next, I tried adding some ground coriander, a spice that has essential elements of citrus and balsam. You barely notice it in the background, but I think it naturally unites the slightly unusual pairing of chocolate with rosemary and olive oil.

I couldn’t help gilding the rosemary, so I sprinkled rosemary sugar leftover from my Italian Greyhounds over the tops just before putting them in the oven.

Rosemary & Bittersweet Chocolate Quick Bread

Yield: 1 standard loaf or 4 mini loaves

Ingredients

3/4 cup spelt flour (or use an equal amount of all purpose flour)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

3 eggs

1 cup olive oil

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces

Rosemary sugar

Instructions

  1. Position an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat 4 small loaf pans (5" x 2") or one regular loaf pan with olive oil. Place the pans on a baking sheet. If using a single loaf pan, you can skip the baking sheet.
  3. Put the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and coriander in a large bowl. Use a whisk to blend the dry ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the olive oil and whisk together. Add the milk and rosemary and mix again just to blend.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, stirring gently to combine. Stir in the chocolate until evenly distributed.
  6. Divide the batter among the pans and smooth the top. Sprinkle tops evenly with some Rosemary Sugar, about 2 teaspoons each, or regular sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes for small loaves; 45- 50 minutes for standard loaf or until the tops are domed and a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaves comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a rack before slicing either warm or cool.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/04/rosemary-bittersweet-chocolate-quick-bread/

Buttermilk Almond Muffins & Meyer Lemon Curd

Buttermilk almond muffinsOver the last few years, Meyer lemons seem to be creeping into the mainstream. A cross between lemon and orange, Meyer lemons are smaller, have less acid and more sweet juiciness than common Eureka or Lisbon lemons.

I heard Alice Waters sing their praises about 10 years ago when I lived in Minneapolis, while giving a talk at a food event I attended. Because she’s Alice Waters and she could, she’d brought along a crate full of fresh, boutique-farmed California produce to display for show-and-tell.

In the middle of the big, beautiful pile of vegetables and fruits I figured I’d never, ever find in any Midwestern grocery store or produce stand was a little basket of lemons, colored an intense shade of egg-yolk orange.

Their skin was silky smooth and they had a sweet perfume I could smell from 3 feet away. One sniff of those lemons and I immediately longed to be transported to a climate where they grew.

That was a decade ago; I don’t think there was much commercial distribution of Meyer lemons; pretty much the only way you could find them was in someone’s backyard in California.

The season for Meyer lemons is relatively brief – unlike common lemons you can find any old day of the week, they appear in the market roughly between early winter and early spring.

Because they seem so scarce and rare, whenever I see them I usually buy more than I can use before they start to rot. Their skins are much more tender than the usual lemon, so they don’t last as long in the crisper drawer.

One way to preserve them is to make a buttery curd using the zest and juice.

meyer lemon curd

And a nice way to use up lemon curd (rather than tucking into it with a spoon), is baked into a topping for these tangy buttermilk muffins.

Buttermilk almond muffins

Buttermilk Almond Muffins & Meyer Lemon Curd

Yield: 1 dozen

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Freshly grated zest of 2 Meyer or regular lemons

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

3/4 cup Meyer lemon curd -recipe follows (yes, you can use prepared lemon curd instead)

3/4 cup sliced, toasted almonds

For Meyer lemon curd:

3 Meyer lemons

3/4 cup sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a muffin tin or line with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly beat the eggs, buttermilk, butter, zest and almond extract; pour over the flour mixture and stir until just blended.
  3. Divide the batter into the muffin pan cups. Top each cup with 1 teaspoon each of the lemon curd and the almonds.
  4. Bake 15 - 20 minutes, or until tops are just turning golden and are firm to the touch.Cool the muffins for 10 minutes before turning out and serving.
  5. To make the lemon curd, zest the lemons with a grater, then cut them in half and squeeze the juice into a small, heavy saucepan. Add the zest and stir in the sugar to dissolve.
  6. Add the eggs and butter and place the pan over medium heat. Use a small heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to constantly stir the mixture until it begins to thicken around the edges of the pan.
  7. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan and lower the heat a bit as you continue to stir. At this point it should form a curd pretty quickly, within a minute or two. Once it reaches a pourable pudding-like consistency, remove the pan from the heat.
  8. Strain the curd into a bowl, cover and chill at least 2 hours before using.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/03/buttermilk-almond-muffins-meyer-lemon-curd/

Toasted Walnut Taralli

Last spring I attended the 32nd annual IACP conference that took place in Portland, Oregon – whew, was it really that long ago already?

I knew that my life has been busy, but it really hits home when I think of these taralli. During the conference, I came across a booth set up by the California Walnut Board, where Portland chef Greg Higgins was generously handing out tastes of these crunchy little snacks. He was also generous about sharing the recipe, but I haven’t gotten around to making them until now.

I saw their appeal right away – they were an updated version of a savory Southern Italian biscuit I grew up eating, only these were made with walnuts and had a definite West coast sophistication.

Greg had them arranged on a tray, adorned with a rosette of roasted garlic chevre and tiny little basil leaves; seeing them made me rethink what I always saw as a humble snack that you took home in an olive-oil stained brown paper bag straight from the corner bakery.

But instead of being piled casually on a plate at my grandma’s house, these taralli looked like they were ready for a cocktail party in San Francisco.

Greg’s original recipe, including the delicious Roasted Garlic Chevre spread is on the California Walnut website, but my tweaked version is below. I substituted some whole wheat flour for half the amount of all-purpose and added fennel seeds, which gives the taralli a flavor that reminds me of home.

Toasted Walnut Taralli

Yield: about 5 dozen

Ingredients

4 teaspoons instant yeast

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups stoneground whole wheat flour

1 cup finely ground toasted walnuts* (grind in food processor)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds

2 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing on taralli

Instructions

  1. Using the kneading attachment, stir together the yeast, flours, walnuts, salt and fennel seeds.
  2. Add 1 cup of the water and mix at medium-high speed until the dough starts to come together. Slowly add more water as necessary (turning down the mixer speed as you do so) until you have a smooth, moist dough. It shouldn't be too wet or sticky, so keep your eyes peeled. Depending on the humidity and your flour, you might need a bit less water.
  3. Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 or 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Punch the dough to deflate and turn it out onto a sparingly floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
  5. Working with one piece at a time, cut each into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll and stretch each ball using your palms into ropes about 6 " long. Bring the ends of the rope together to make a ring, tucking one end inside the other and pinching together.
  6. Arrange the rings on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between. Brush the rings with oil and bake until golden and firm, about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove to a rack and cool. The taralli will crisp up more as they cool. Store at room temperature in covered container.

Notes

You could mix this up in large bowl and knead by hand, but I used my Kitchen Aid Mixer.

http://familystylefood.com/2011/01/toasted-walnut-taralli/