August, 2007

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Carrot Bread
Aug 20th, 2007



As you may have noticed I like to read cookbooks. I buy them new and used, check them out of the library, and make long lists of books that I absolutely need to read. There are a lot of good cookbooks out there, but it's inevitable that after a while a lot of recipes start to seem repetitive. After all there are only so many ways to prepare a rustic fruit tart or seared flank steak. So I'm always excited when I come across a recipe that is entirely new to me or incorporates familiar ingredients in an unexpected way.

This recipe for a quick savory carrot bread includes pecans, whole wheat flour, dried dill, and Chinese five spice - certainly not a combination I had seen before - so of course I had to give it a try. The preparation is also a bit different. It's a quick bread leavened with baking soda rather than yeast, but you knead it like a yeast bread and bake it in a freeform loaf.



The recipe comes together quickly and the results are really quite good. The carrots make the bread much moister than your typical whole wheat loaf. In fact it kept for almost a week without going stale and dry, quite a feat for homemade bread. The dill and five spice don't come through too much in the loaf once it is baked, just enough to give a bit of complexity to the taste. I might add just a bit more five spice next time to see what that's like. Try this bread warm with lots of butter, or spread with a savory cream cheese and smoked salmon.


Savory Carrot Bread
makes one loaf

1 cup buttermilk
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 tbsp honey
4 to 5 cups whole-wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp dried dill
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the buttermilk, butter, eggs, and honey and beat on low speed until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine 4 cups of the flour, the baking powder, five-spice, salt, baking soda, and dill. Stir with a whisk to blend. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then beat in the carrots and nuts just until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to incorporate the ingredients.

Turn the dough into a well-floured work surface and sprinkle it with 1/2 cup of the remaining flour. Knead the flour into it, adding more as needed, until the dough is barely sticky. On the prepared pan, shape it into an oblong approximately 10 inches long, 5 inches wide, and no more than 2 inches high. Cut a large shallow X into the top with a sharp knife.

Bake the bread for one hour, or until it is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a rack and let cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

-Ann Martin Rolke, Hands-Off Cooking
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Filberts By Another Name
Aug 2nd, 2007



Growing up we lived next to a filbert orchard. My brother and I amused ourselves running on the grassy tracks between the rows of trees ane there was always a pile of unshelled filberts in a wooden bowl on our kitchen table with a handy nutcracker nearby. I liked them okay but rarely ate them, usually not finding it worth the trouble to send jagged pieces of shell flying with my woeful nutcracking skills. They were just there, just nuts, kind of boring.

It's amazing what a name change and some distance will do. Hazelnuts! That sounds somehow gourment and much more appealing than the humble filbert, although of course they are the same round nut with the shiny slightly acorn shaped shell. Now that I've moved away from the heart of Oregon filbert country they're a bit more spendy to come by, especially since I've given up the dream of the nutcracker and submitted to the ease of the preshelled nut. So of course now is when I decide to develop a bit of a jones for the hazelnut/filbert.

Northwest recipes abound with hazelnut crusted this, hazelnut infused oil that, but up to now I don't recall coming across a hazelnut spread. This spread has echoes of pesto and hummos, although the texture ends up somewhere else altogether. I ripped this recipe out of an advertising circular from a local whole foods co-op and the accompanying picture was of a smooth, orangeish, hummos-like spread. What I got instead was very nutty, like a stiff pesto heavy on the pinenuts. I liked it as is, scoopable onto a cracker but also good for tossing with steamed cauliflower and penne pasta or throwing into a quick chicken saute. The taste is fabulous, with savory and salty tomatoes and garlic, the fresh green taste of the herbs, a full mouthfeel from the oil, and the mellow hazelnuts tieing everything together.

However, next time I try it I'll change some proportions around - I think 8 ounces of hazelnuts is a lot for this recipe. I'd like to try reducing the nuts and the oil and keeping the other amounts the same and see how I like the result. Or maybe someone out there will give it a whirl and let me know how it goes.


Hazelnut, sundried tomato and fresh herb spread
Makes about 2 cups

8 ounces [or less] toasted hazelnuts
2 ounces sundried tomatoes
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
4 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Toast the hazelnuts in the oven at 250°F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool. Remove loose skin from the nuts. Soak the sundried tomatoes in 1 cup of hot water for about an hour. Strain and chop the tomatoes. Reserve the soaling water.

In a food processor, combine sundried tomatoes, herbs, garlic, olive oil and half of the rserved soaking water. Pulse in food processor until blended. Then add hazelnuts and pulse until nuts are roughly ground. Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.

-Birgitte Andersen, PCC Instructor
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