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

  1. 3/4 cup spelt flour (or use an equal amount of all purpose flour)
  2. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. 3/4 cup sugar
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  7. 3 eggs
  8. 1 cup olive oil
  9. 3/4 cup milk
  10. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  11. 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces
  12. 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/

Homemade Nutella

homemade-nutella-recipe

What comes to mind when you think of culinary pairings that seem to make magic together, so absolutely made for each other you can’t imagine tasting one without the other?

I can think of a few right off the bat, like:

lime + ginger

basil + tomatoes

olive oil + garlic

and last but not least:

chocolate + hazelnuts.

In one of my favorite new books, The Flavour Thesaurus, author Niki Segnit writes that when cocoa became scarce and  expensive during the late 19th century, chocolate manufacturers in the Italian Piedmont “bulked out” their product with a paste of hazelnuts, which grew plentifully in the region, thus introducing to the world the taste sensation known as gianduja.

All I can say to the genius who stumbled upon this marriage of convenience is THANK YOU.

Millions of hungry, sugar loving children and their families are grateful, since the discovery eventually led to the production of Nutella, and from there, well, we all know the story.

Let’s just agree that chocolate-hazelnut spread on a piece of bread kicks the ass out of your every day PBJ sandwich.

I love the idea of making my own version of Nutella – as much as I adore the store-bought version, it can be a bit cloyingly sweet. Also when I check the label I’m a little dismayed to see that these days the spread can be ‘bulked out’ with partially hydrogenated oils.

I was inspired by a few different recipes here – one from raw food chef Ani Phyo and another from the LA Times.

After applying my appropriate tweaks, I’m happy to share the results with you. Be aware that the texture is not completely velvety smooth, like the stuff that comes out of a jar. Food processors are a wonder, but can’t completely pulverize the nuts to an ultra fine puree.

However, I enjoy the resulting texture – plus the flavor of this homemade version is so real and luscious it’s almost beyond comparison to anything you can buy.

Homemade Nutella

Yield: about 3 cups

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups toasted hazelnuts *
  2. 1/2 cup agave nectar
  3. 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil
  4. 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  7. about 1/4 cup cold water

Instructions

  1. Process the hazelnuts in a food processor workbowl until they form a coarse paste. You'll need to scrape the bowl down a few times to fully incorporate.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except the water and continue to process until somewhat smooth.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the water until you achieve a smooth, emulsified consistency, keeping in mind that you might not need all the water, or might need a bit more.
  4. Scrape the spread into a container and chill in the refrigerator until spreadable; it will keep for about a week. Bring to room temperature before spreading on toast, pouring over ice cream, or directly into your mouth...

Notes

I like the organic, neutral flavor of Omega Nutrtion coconut oil

* To toast hazelnuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until the nuts turn light brown. I don't bother with trying to rub off the skins - I find it too much trouble and the results are about the same.

http://familystylefood.com/2010/06/homemade-nutella/

Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

We spent spring break at home last week, and I have to admit I dreaded it a tiny bit. My kids usually have a gang of friends in our neighborhood to hang with, but it seemed like they all flew south for a taste of warm sun, leaving my brood in a state of social withdrawal. I imagined long rainy days stuck inside while their boredom escalated to deafening levels.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law L flew in from Portland to entertain and play with us – happiness all around!

I came home one afternoon to find her in the kitchen with the kids, applying lashings of creamy frosting to the tops of just-baked little chocolate cupcakes, something I know an attentive Mrs. Cleaver might attempt with her family, but I never seem to. That must be what aunts are for, I think.

The cupcake recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s fantastic book Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie is a perfectionist, and her recipes are crafted to a precise “T”. Perfect recipe instructions are especially important in baking recipes; those chemical reactions that happen in the oven rely on exact measurements of ingredients, time and temperature.

These cupcakes are no exception; they turned out just as promised – dark, moist, not too sweet – glazed with a shiny, bakery-like chocolate frosting. L sprinkled some colored candy sprinkles on the cupcakes, reserving a few with a sprinkle of sea salt, a just reward for the adults in need of a chocolate fix.