Sunday, January 5, 2014

Brown Butter Blueberry Cornmeal Banana Bread

Say the recipe name five times fast. I dare you.

Sure, it could just say ‘Banana Bread’…but, can you imagine leaving any one of the other ingredients out of the recipe name? It’s like Banana Bread, but on crack. But somehow Crack Banana Bread just didn’t have the right ring to it. Somehow.

Instead of regular old butter, we brown the butter in a saucepan first to become nutty and delicious and just downright seductive.
Dear Brown Butter: Is it acceptable to dab you on my wrists and neck like perfume?

Instead of just flour, we kick up the flavor and the texture by adding an earthy crunch of cornmeal.
Dear Cornmeal: I have a crush on you. You make me want to eat fresh tortillas every day.

Instead of only sweet ripe banana, we add juicy summer Maine blueberries to the fruit roster. Because they’re in the freezer and are practically crying out to be used and brighten the spirits of a heavy winter chill.
Dear Maine Blueberries: You win. Forever.

But I digress to from my love letters to food ingredients. Let’s get down to it.

By now you are armed with not one, not two, but three rockin blueberry bread recipes that are fit to please any guest and at any time of year. That’s badass. And this recipe is unabashedly the badass-est (woah). 
All of the elements come together in a sweet-enough, banana, blueberry, crunchy, moist-but-not-too-moist, perfect crumb bite. Having a whole 9x13 pan of it is nothing short of dangerous. And by dangerous I mean awesome.

Think Batman – dangerously awesome.

Batman Brown Butter Blueberry Cornmeal Banana Bread…?

We win. Forever.

Also, Note to Self:  This is the risk of taking a food photo shoot on a very snowy balcony railing.

Note to Self #2:  The consequence of said risk = out-of-the-oven banana bread dusted with freshly fallen Maine powder.  An amazing unexpected reward.

Brown Butter Blueberry Cornmeal Banana Bread

Adapted from Joy the Baker


7 ounces unsalted butter, melted and browned to just over 1/2 cup of butter
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup corn meal
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup plain yogurt (any fat content) or buttermilk
1 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3-4 medium bananas)
Heaping 1 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan and set aside. (You could also consider doing two bread loaf pans)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Butter will begin to foam and crackle as it melts. When the crackling subsides, the butter will begin to brown. Swirl the pan as the butter cooks. When the butter browns and begins to smell nutty, remove the pan from the flame and transfer the butter to a small bowl. Taking the butter out of the hot saucepan will stop the butter from overcooking and burning. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract, and yogurt or buttermilk. Whisk in the mashed bananas. When butter has cooled, whisk in the browned butter.

Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients. Fold together, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to reveal any hidden pockets of flour. Fold in the blueberries. Fold together ingredients, but try not to over stir.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 15 minutes.

Bread will last 4 days, well wrapped at room temperature. It also freezes well.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Blueberry Gingerbread Cake

It's 2014.


Wait a minute, I feel like we're having deja vu.  I feel like we were just having the same conversation about how crazy it was that it was Labor Day.  And talking about a recipe that has blueberries baked into a delicious bread batter.  And swooning over how delicious Maine blueberries are. 

Yup.  That's exactly what's happening.  Again.  And I'm into it. 

Only now I look outside and all I see is a magical winter wonderland instead of a late summer sun-glistening lake.  And those blueberries, they're the same.  Except they've taken a long winters nap in our freezer, patiently waiting to awaken on a cold day like today and make everyone feel warm and summery and nostalgic.  

This recipe puts a summery bright burst on a winter holiday favorite: gingerbread.  The deep sweet of molasses with a ginger spice is perked up just enough by the bright freshness of the blueberry.  And oh, the amazing summer flavor is still there.  It's there and it's awesome.  You close your eyes and get lost in the time warp.... and in the end you don't care what time of year it is.  All you taste is delicious. 

Because what do you do when it's -11 degrees outside?  You bake, and you bake with what you have.  And if that means pulling out part of your summer harvest from the freezer, all the better.

Also, consider this Winter Blueberry recipe as Recipe 1 of 2 - with another coming your way tomorrow.  It's even more get excited.

And in the meantime, get bakin'.

Blueberry Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from Martha Stewart and Smitten Kitchen

8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for pan
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting finished cake
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, essential for serving

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour parchment and sides of cake pan, or spray both with a nonstick baking spray.

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan (or large one, if you’d like to make the cake entirely in there) and add baking soda — it will foam up! this is fun! Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in butter until melted. Whisk in dark brown sugar, molasses and fresh ginger, if using. Mixture is usually just lukewarm by now, but if it still feels quite hot to the touch, set it aside to 10 to 15 minutes to cool further before using.

Place flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder in a fine-mesh strainer or sifter so that you can sift them over the wet ones in a minute.

Transfer molasses mixture to a large mixing bowl if your saucepan isn’t large enough to make the batter in. Whisk in eggs until just combined. Sift dry ingredients over wet, then stir the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan; bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer cake to a wire rack and let cool completely. Once fully cool, cut around cake to make sure no parts are sticking to the side and invert cake out onto a rack, then onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares. Please, promise you’ll serve this with lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream. They’re made for each other.

Do ahead: Whipped cream needs to be stored in the fridge, of course. Cake keeps at room temperature for up to a week in an airtight container.