Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Strawberry Buttermilk Bread with Rosemary


The local strawberries have recently taken a turn for the sweeter. We've been devouring huge piles of them as the warm weather settles in. I love them simply as they are, juicy and sweet and perfect.

But this week — hectic at home, and stressful across the country — I've been craving comfort food.

I turned the last of this week's strawberries into a not-too-sweet simple bread, almost savory with a sprinkling of rosemary. This buttermilk quick bread is lighter on the fat and sugar than your typical quick bread, and whole wheat flour makes it downright hearty. My kids, who are accustomed to sweeter quick breads, remain skeptical. But I think this one will grow on them.

This stores well for a few days or can be frozen for later. It's absolutely delicious with a bit of light cream cheese or marmalade on top. And while I call it "buttermilk" bread, I always make it with a cheater's version of buttermilk — usually low-fat milk thickened and soured with a bit of vinegar. Sometimes I blend milk with Greek yogurt instead. Both work beautifully.


Strawberry Buttermilk Bread with Rosemary

I coat the chopped strawberries with flour to keep them from clumping up the batter. It's an optional step, but helpful. Don't substitute frozen strawberries: You'll end up with gummy bread. This is adapted from a master recipe for buttermilk bread at The Kitchn.

1 cup plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, separated
1 cup white whole wheat flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 cup buttermilk (or stir 1 tablespoon white vinegar into 1 cup milk and let stand a few minutes)
1 large egg
1/4 cup olive oil, vegetable oil, or melted butter
1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed, dried, and diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine all-purpose and white whole wheat flour, reserving extra 1/4 cup of flour for later. Stir in sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and rosemary. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and oil. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry.

In a small bowl, gently stir strawberries into reserved 1/4 cup of flour. Spoon strawberries into a mesh strainer to sift out extra flour.

Carefully fold strawberries into batter, then pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (If the loaf is getting too brown, tent it with foil.) Let bread cool before removing from pan.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A neat trick to make perfect sorbet with any fruit juice


Desperate to use up the juice crowding our fridge, I stumbled across this very cool technique for making a creamy sorbet out of any fruit juice. All you need is juice, sugar, water, and one intact egg. You don't even need an ice cream maker.

Gather the kids 'round for this one. It’s science in the kitchen, folks!

Read Zoë François' post on Sorbet 101 for the full details. In brief, here’s how it works: An egg that normally sinks to the bottom of a bowl of juice will float if enough sugar is added. The amount of sugar needed to make it float happens to be just the amount you need to get a nice, smooth sorbet instead of a chunky, icy one.


0413_CPE_fruit-juice-sorbet-3Out of a half-dozen juices stuffed in my fridge, thanks to my kindergartner’s recent science fair project on cleaning pennies, I chose blood orange juice for my first test. Ferry Farms’ oranges had brightened my table throughout the gray days of winter. By mid-March, I thought I was finally over citrus for the season. Then I tried their blood orange juice at the farmer’s market, went weak in the knees, and brought it home.

The second ingredient: simple syrup. I simmered equal amounts of water and sugar until the sugar dissolved, then let it cool.

And then the egg. I washed one and checked to make sure it was a guaranteed sinker. Fresh eggs sink; old eggs float. (Zoë says don’t worry about it, but on the heels of the science fair I figured it couldn't hurt to ensure a controlled experiment.)

I poured the last of my blood orange juice into a pitcher and gently lowered in the egg. It disappeared into the murky depths. I added a half-cup of sugar syrup and the egg bobbed up like a cork. Done! This looks a bit like a crime scene, but it gives you an idea of what you're looking for:


I strained and poured the mixture, chilled it in the fridge, then let the ice cream maker work its magic.

The final result: perfect. Mouthwateringly wow.

The boys helped make a second batch, this time blending cherry and regular lemonade with a splash of limoncello. We needed less than a cup of sugar syrup to get our egg floating nice and high. I froze this one in a deep dish, stirring every half-hour or so until it was the right consistency and blitzing it with an immersion blender once it was good and slushy.

Oh, my. This is good stuff.

The guava juice is next in line for sorbetification, and then I want to try Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee, green tea, Lavender Lemonade, rosewater, herbal infusions, vegetable juices — maybe even beets? It's going to be a crazy summer around here.


Master recipe for juice sorbet

Thanks to Zoë Bakes for the brilliant technique. Be sure to read her post for more tips, including using tart citrus juices. If you have leftover simple syrup, refrigerate it for the next batch or use it to sweeten iced tea or coffee. You can easily make more less — the magic egg will make sure you have the perfect ratio.

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups juice
1 whole, uncooked egg in its shell
optional: herbs, citrus zest, a spoonful or two of liquor

To make simple syrup: In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Optional: For added flavor, add citrus zest or herbs and let them steep. See the Lavender Lemonade recipe for an example.) Cool.

Pour juice into a container deep enough to fully submerge an egg. Carefully lower the egg into the juice and make sure it sinks. Remove it and stir in a quarter cup of cooled simple syrup, then add the egg again. Repeat this step until the egg floats — the part above the juice mixture should be about the diameter of a quarter.

(Optional: If you like, add a spoonful or two of liquor. This helps ensure your sorbet won't get too icy, but it really isn't necessary.)

Strain mixture into a container and refrigerate until well chilled. Pour into an ice cream maker and prepare according to the instructions.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into a deep container and stick it in the freezer. Check on it every 30 minutes and stir until smooth. If it gets too chunky, use an immersion blender or a food processor to make it nice and smooth, then freeze again. It should take 2 to 3 hours total.


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