Sourdough Surprises - October 2013
When I was a youngster, banana bread was the number one choice for quick breads. As a young adult, more than a few years ago, zucchini loaves led the quick bread parade in everyone's kitchen. Lately it seems there has been a quick bread recipe explosion with both sweet and savory offerings. Or have I just noticed? What a surprise to discover that quick breads have been around forever, well for a long time anyway.
"Quick bread" most probably originated in the United States of America at the end of the eighteenth century. Before the creation of quick bread, baked goods were leavened with either yeast or by mixing dough with eggs. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), the demand for food was high. Thus, bread was rapidly made and leavened with baking soda, instead of yeast. Hence the name "quick bread". WikipediaFor a more in-depth quick bread primer, go to King Arthur Flour's informative page.
When Sourdough Surprises announced quick breads and muffins as the October theme, it was an invitation to explore some new possibilities. No banana bread or zucchini muffins for me this month, oh no.
Piles of beautiful Bartlett pears at an Island market were irresistible, prompting a search for some fresh pear quick bread recipes to adapt to sourdough. Omigosh, too many choices, too similar in ingredients to differentiate, too much fun wasting time and browsing online sources! I went back to paging through the many cookbooks I carry onboard and settled on an Alaskan innkeeper's recipe for pear bread. I chose Annie Unrein's cookbook, From Halibut to Jalapeños, a favorite read for it's history of homesteading the land and opening an inn in Gustavus, Alaska, at the edge of Glacier Bay National Park. I love the book but don't cook from it often enough.
I added some grated ginger to Annie's original recipe, thinking pear and ginger would play well together. Hmmmm, that was a start and then a sprinkle of nutmeg and cardamom joined the party. That was better, even the raw dough tasted good. My only mistake was in baking just half a recipe the first time. Those two mini loaves disappeared almost before the aroma left the galley! That tantalizing scent wafted out of the boat, stopped passing foot traffic on the pier, and garnered a few offers to taste test.
|Photo: Uneven loaf height may be due to uneven oven heat, or the boat not quite sitting level on that particular day.|
RL is not usually fond of pears, noting they are typically either too hard and unripe or are over-the-hill, soft and mushy. This Ginger Pear Quick Bread may have made him a pear fan at last - he certainly ate enough to let me know the recipe is a winner.
Sourdough Ginger Pear Quick Bread1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
inspired by a recipe found in From Halibut to Jalapeños
1 cup granulated sugar (or substitute a heaping 3/4 cup honey)
1 tablespoon (or more) freshly grated ginger
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of nutmeg and cardamom
1/4 cup sourdough starter, well-fed and rested
1/8 cup buttermilk
1 generous cup firm pears; peeled, cored, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup nuts (optional, I didn't use any)
Sugar to sprinkle on top after baking (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the grated ginger.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cardamom in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Combine the sourdough starter and the buttermilk. Set aside.
- Add the dry ingredients and the sourdough/buttermilk mix alternately in several additions to the egg mixture.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the pears and the vanilla (plus nuts if you are using any).
- Pour the batter into 4 greased and floured mini loaf pans or one prepared 9x5x3 loaf pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean - about 40 minutes for the mini loaves and 1 hour for the larger loaf (in my galley oven). (10/30/13 - four small loaves took 50 minutes in the house oven)
- Let the loaves cool in the pan for a few minutes, sprinkle with sugar if using, then turn out on a rack to cool.
- Almost ripe or ripe-but-still-firm pears are a necessity for this bread. Soft pears will go mushy; their texture will make the bread unappealing to eat. I can recommend Bartlett and Bosc pears, but have not tried other varieties this week.
- The flavor is reported to intensify and the texture firm up if the loaves are wrapped and chilled for a day... but who can wait that long? We thought the first loaf was delicious when we enjoyed a few slices still warm from the oven. A second loaf was equally tasty served cold at breakfast two days later. No difference noted in texture or flavor.
- Play around with the spices and flavorings. I'm thinking almond extract or perhaps anise, citrus zest, a hint of rosemary, or ....