Recipe: Apple Bread Brings Perfection to a Messy Kitchen
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works: Meals from the Homemade Pantry (Clarkson Potter), due out in 2014.
Last week, on the day I got this apple bread to just the place I wanted it, I tumbled into the house with the girls post-school and prepared myself to clear off the counters and do the dishes so that I could photograph a few neat slices of the bread on a clean, well-placed plate, maybe even with a cup of tea that I may or may not drink (as it was already 4:30, and the day had been a little rough, and I thought it might be a good idea just to skip to a glass of wine). Then my girls started to fight about something or other…
There a couple of different ways this scene can go. But what happened in that particular moment was that I stopped in the middle of the kitchen and I planted my feet on the floor. I looked at the sink full of dishes (sadly omitted from the photo, but I had to get the apple bread in there!) I took a breath, I turned off the ringer on the phone, and even though I had to search into some deep recesses of my being to make this true, I said to myself, “I love this kitchen.” And because I do, I took a picture of it right then and there, because if I were you reading this, I’d rather see the bread in its natural habitat.
In my book, I have sections in some of the recipes called “tense moments”. What I’m trying to do with those tense moments is to give readers the tools in that moment to be flexible, and to figure out how to shift and adjust if an element is not going exactly as you hope. Because the truth is that I can share a recipe that has worked for me over and over. I can add input from recipe testers who all created the recipe in different kitchens. But every recipe is a guideline, and it’s part of the process of cooking (or preserving, or making cheese) that slight changes in temperature, ingredients, and even, yes, mood, will shift the experience and the product. It’s all just a little bit like every single other thing in life.
(This is a quite altered version of a bread from Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest . My take on the bread is dense and lemony and make your house smell like heaven. Because it’s so dense and moist from the apple, it stays delicious for a few days, and although I haven’t tested it’s freezability, I’m guessing it freezes very well.)
Makes 2 loaves
4 cups coarsely grated unpeeled apple (from about 1.75 pounds apples)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 2 medium loaf pans. (The bread doesn’t rise too much, so the pans can be fairly shallow.)
2. Combine the apple, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the brown sugar, butter, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the apple and stir to combine.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the apple mixture into the dry mixture and combine with a few strong, swift strokes. Divide the batter between the loaf pans and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a cake tester or toothpick, when inserted, comes out clean. Remove from the baking pans immediately and let the bread cool completely before eating. — Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com . All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.