After Jeremy’s prodigious post on the bread-baking frenzy at our house this summer, I feel like I should write a bit about what I have been up to baking-wise, lest you think I have just been laying about stuffing my face with the fruits of Jeremy’s labors for two months.
Yes, I did relinquish yeasted bread duties to Jeremy’s willing hands. Although I very much enjoy baking fresh bread, the amount of work and planning that goes into it means that I just didn’t get around to it as often as Jeremy would like. I am, however, much better about making quick breads, muffins, and biscuits, so I have been concentrating on those this summer in the baking department.
Along with the requisite banana bread (which sacred recipe I am not allowed to modify in any way, shape or form), I’ve recently tried out a number of new quick bread recipes, all of which got gobbled up without getting a glamor shot for the blog. For instance, with lovely fresh zucchini from the farmer’s market, I made three loaves of zucchini-prune bread from the Good Enough to Eat cookbook a few weekends ago (one loaf was given away, and another put in the freezer for future emergency snacking). This recipe made delicious bread even though, with three loaf pans in the oven together, the middle pan refused to cook through: we ended up slicing off the cooked outsides and heating them on the griddle. I will definitely make this recipe again, and scale it back to the original single loaf, as it really had outstanding flavor. I didn’t even think I liked prunes, but they suited this bread perfectly.
Since I had more zucchini to play with, I made a batch of chocolate zucchini cupcakes once the Z-P bread was gone. As recommended, I used coconut oil for the first time, which was an interesting experience. Coconut oil has a melting point of something like 75ÂºF, and when I went to make the muffins, it was a warm afternoon after a cooler day, so our coconut oil was half-liquid, half-solid, and rather a challenge to get out of the jar and measure without creating a mess. Once in the mixer, however, it blended in easily and added a lot of moisture to the finished muffins. The cupcakes were ultra-chocolatey, with no hint of the two cups of grated zucchini that went into the batter.
A few weeks ago, I whipped up a batch of buttermilk biscuits to accompany pasta on a night that we didn’t already have fresh bread ready and waiting. I had a notion the very sticky dough would be hard to work with, but it turned out to be easy as (well, frankly, easier than) pie, and the biscuits really were fantastic.
Other than that, at least off the top of my head, I’ve made waffles and pancakes several times—do those count as quick breads? We had some very tasty multigrain cinnamon banana waffles, and just yesterday a batch of buttermilk and brown sugar waffles topped with roasted cherries. But the real revelation has been in pancakes.
I’m not really a pancake girl; give me a plate of French toast instead anytime. But I have met my match in praline ricotta pancakes, which I can safely say are the best pancakes ever. My recipe is a riff off of the hazelnut-lemon-ricotta pancakes posted on The Wednesday Chef, from an Amanda Hesser article in the New York Times. Since I had leftover ricotta taunting me from the refrigerator, but no hazelnuts or whole lemons on hand, I improvised with almond praline, and the result was so delicious that we still haven’t gotten around to the original recipe, several batches later. For those of you who have been patient enough to read this long-winded post with no photographic relief, here is your prize: the reason we will have ricotta on hand at all times in future (and a good enough excuse to try making fresh ricotta myself sometime).
Praline Ricotta Pancakes
1 C flour
1/3 C sugar
Â½ C finely ground Almond Praline (note follows),
plus more praline for garnish
2 tsp baking powder
Â½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 C milk
3 T butter, melted
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1 C ricotta, strained of any liquid
This is more of a guide than a recipe, as I am sure there are more authoritative ones out there. What I do is take a double-handful of slivered almonds, and begin toasting them over medium high heat until they begin to smell good. At that point I add a tablespoon of unsalted butter and around 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, plus a sprinkle of cinnamon, and stir it all around until it begins to form a sticky syrup around the almonds. The moment it begins to look beige, I take it off the heat and pour it on a small plate covered with foil (if I am thinking ahead, I spritz the foil with canola oil first), and chuck it in the fridge while I make the pancake batter. By the time I am ready for the pulverized praline, it has hardened and is ready for the chop. I’ve done this successfully with walnuts also, and imagine pecans or hazelnuts would work admirably.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the milk, butter, egg yolks, vanilla and ricotta. Fold this into the dry ingredients. Pulverize 1/2 C of the praline and stir it in. Break or chop several additional tablespoons of praline into small chunks for garnish. Whip the egg whites just until stiff, then fold them into the batter.
Heat a pancake griddle, and lightly coat the surface with spray oil. Use a Â¼ cup measure to scoop the batter onto the griddle. Cook until the pancakes appear dry around the edges, about 3 minutes, then flip them and cook for another minute or two. Serve with real maple syrup, garnished with chunks of praline. Serves 4.