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Tag Archives: pecan

Strawberry Pecan Bread

31 May

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In some parts of the country, it’s strawberry season. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is almost strawberry season, which is sort of like saying it is almost Christmas or almost baseball season, meaning that we’re in that odd limbo period wherein one can start to feel sort of excited about what is to come, but there is still a rather hazy period of waiting that needs to pass before the real excitement kicks in. At least, this is how one feels if strawberries are the type of thing that qualify as excitement-worthy. As you can probably ascertain, this is how I feel.

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While the strawberries in my own garden still require a week or so of warm weather before they are properly ripened (in other news: it needs to stop raining and being 60 degrees, because 1) I loathe that weather, and 2) the strawberries, they need to ripen), there are local berries (grown in greenhouses, I can only assume) popping up at various markets around the city. When the local strawberries begin to appear, you know that summer is not far behind.

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While I’ll never tire of simply eating strawberries as they are, deeply crimson and perfectly sweet, it’s pretty much impossible for me to eat something while not thinking about the various ways I could incorporate or transform it into something different. Strawberry desserts, not surprisingly, are always top on my list of strawberry favorites, but a light strawberry snack should never be ignored. This bread falls somewhere in between a dessert and a snack, although, with only ¼ cup of added sugar to sweeten the whole loaf, I would argue that the scale tips more towards the latter. With hints of cinnamon and lemon zest, little bits of crunchy pecans, and mellow pockets of juicy strawberries, this welcoming bread would make a great picnic staple, but it’s also a welcome companion to a hot cup of coffee in the morning or afternoon. If you’re looking for a way to dress this fellow up, top a slice with a scoop of ice cream and call it dessert. Thus far, I’ve found no inappropriate way to enjoy this almost-summertime treat.

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Last Year: Ginger Cardamom Cake with Lemon Glaze, Stuffed Picnic Sandwich with Olive Tapenade, and Strawberry Lemon Cream Puffs

Strawberry Pecan Bread

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup vegetable oil

¼ cup light brown sugar

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 ½ cups sliced fresh strawberries

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and flour the inside of a 9”x5” loaf pan.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, brown sugar, and applesauce. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir lightly until just combined. Add the strawberries and pecans, and gently stir and fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Smooth the top of the batter, then bake in the center of the oven for 75 to 90 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the loaf emerges mostly clean, with just a crumb or two attached.

Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Turn loaf right side up, then allow to cool almost completely before slicing and eating.

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Lime Pecan Bars

12 Jul

Does anyone here have a single favorite cookbook? This is something I think about often. Most likely because, when asked the question myself, I tend to freeze up and stammer about categories of cookbooks, eras of cookbooks, and whether or not “favorite” can mean the same thing as “most utilized,” etc. It’s not that I have commitment issues with my cookbooks, it’s just that, when the word favorite is used, I never really know how to distill all the elements of a great cookbook into one choice. Maybe there’s an algorithm somewhere that can help me figure this one out. Something like number of recipes I’ve made more than once from a certain cookbook, divided by number of changes I’ve had to make in each recipe to make it work, plus number of food splatter stains adorning each page, multiplied by number of times I have had actual dreams about certain foods in each cookbook. Surely someone can figure this one out for me.

I’ll go ahead and submit a cookbook for mathematical consideration: Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. This cookbook contains several recipes I’ve visited more than once, nearly all of which I have tinkered with in order to really make them noteworthy, and is patterned with numerous stains and splatters. I have yet to have any actual dreams about the desserts in this book, but, worry not, there is still time.

My only complaint about this cookbook lies with element number two of the equation. Most of the recipes in this book sound absolutely delicious, but lack the sort of punch they need to really make them shine. The problem, of course, could be entirely mine, considering the fact that this cookbook was obviously not made to please my personal palette alone, but I still find myself adding and subtracting from each recipe whenever I endeavor to make something from the book. These lime pecan bars, in particular, have been a sticking point for me. The recipe printed in the book, though passable, has never been what I might consider to be a solid, go-to recipe. I’ve worked my way with it over the years, but no matter what I did, the final texture of the bars always seemed a little off—a tad too gummy for my tastes, and never as tart as I think a citrus bar should be.

However, I am proud to say that, after a few years of off-and-on experimentation, I think I have finally cracked the code of this treat. I upped the lime juice quotient by almost 30%, changed the ratio of eggs to flour, reduced the sugar percentage accordingly, pinched in some sea salt, and tinkered with the baking time. It only took me a half dozen batches or so over the course of a few years (two batches in this week alone), but I think I have done it. A creamy custard baked atop a crisp and slightly nutty base, it is a dessert both pleasingly tart and satisfyingly sweet, without falling too much in the category of either. It is very nearly perfect, and I can say with certainly that this recipe, at least, is now one I can call a favorite.

Last Year: Nectarine and Raspberry Galette in a Cornmeal Crust, and Roasted Asparagus and Lemon Chèvre Galette . What can I say? I like a nice galette.

Lime Pecan Bars Recipe

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts

Base:

½ cup pecans

¼ cup lightly packed light brown sugar

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

pinch of fine grain sea salt

Topping:

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

¾ cup sugar

1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon very finely grated or chopped lime zest

pinch of fine grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of an 8” by 8” square baking pan.

In the bowl of a food processor, or by hand, finely chop the pecans. Add the sugar, flour, melted butter, and sea salt, and process or blend with a fork to form a crumbly mixture. Press the crust into the buttered pan, coaxing the crust about ¼ of an inch up the sides and pressing it into place. Bake the crust in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until it is golden brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling by whisking together the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar. Whisk in the flour, lime juice, lime zest, and salt. As soon as the crust is done baking, remove it from the oven, pour in the lime mixture, and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, until the center is no longer wobbly and the top of the bars are only slightly firm to the touch (a finger touched in the center of the bars should leave only a slight indentation.

Remove the bars from the oven and cool at room temperature for 1 hour.

Bars can be cut into 12 medium-sized rectangles, or 16 smaller squares.

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