Saturday, October 18, 2014

Apple-licious Brown Bread

It's apple season; time to make applesauce, rustic apple pie, apple sweet rolls, apple crepes, apple pancakesapple coffee cake, apple quick bread, apple torteeverything apple! It seemed a good time to try apples in Boston brown bread. Why brown bread? Why not, I've never made it before and it does seem to fit the season.

I found a recipe for Steamed Brown Bread in Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book, a 1961 volume older than some of my friends, and compared it with a 2014 recipe for Easy Boston Brown Bread found online at The ingredients in the two versions were remarkably similar, calling for a mixture of flours including cornmeal and whole wheat, baking soda, buttermilk and molasses. The BIG difference was in the suggested steaming times, 3 hours versus 35 minutes. Wow! Granted the specified container sizes varied from 1-1b coffee cans to 14-oz food cans, but that's still a puzzling time variance. It didn't matter since I confused things further by making a half-recipe in a 28-oz can (left from the hominy I used in this week's posole). OK, forget the math, I would guesstimate the timing.   
Photo: 14-oz can vs 28-oz can, with corresponding height difference as well.
The online recipe became the starting point, with a few tweaks and the addition of one coarsely-grated Fuji apple and some Penzey's Apple Pie Spice. After grating the apple, I squeezed out the excess liquid and let the shreds sit in a strainer while prepping the other ingredients. Some 2% milk plus one tablespoon of white vinegar substituted for buttermilk; it clumped and thickened while the grated apple drained. I used regular rather than blackstrap molasses and whole wheat flour instead of rye flour. 

The recipe recommended steaming the batter in foil-covered cans set in a lidded pot of simmering water until the bread "set and gently pulled away from sides of can, about 35 minutes. A skewer inserted into the center should come out with moist crumbs." Essentially if you can simmer water, you can make brown bread.

The bread did pull away from the sides of the can after 35 minutes, but the skewer came out heavily coated. I left the can in the simmering water for another 15 minutes before moving it onto a cooling rack.

On day one the brown bread was quite moist, almost too moist according to RL, but the flavor was rewardingly deep and tangy.  The apples lurked in the background with no overwhelming appleness in taste or texture, but the cinnamon and nutmeg from the added apple pie spice blend hinted at apple pie. Nonetheless, the result was a huge improvement over any grocery store can of brown bread. 

Breakfast on day two included thick slices of the brown bread, crisped up under the broiler and slathered with softened cream cheese. Delicious! and now it's time to empty some more cans and make another batch, a double batch this time. Apple Brown Bread was indeed, an Apple-licious treat.

Apple Brown Bread
based on a recipe from seriouseats

1 very large or 2 medium apples, shredded and drained in a strainer
1 cup buttermilk (or vinegar soured milk)

1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp Apple Pie Spice

2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup raisins

1 tablespoon flour (to coat the apple shreds)
Apple butter or cream cheese to serve alongside

Shred the apple(s), squeeze to remove juices, and place in a strainer to drain. 
Prepare the vinegar-soured milk if using.
Grease 3 squeaky clean 14-oz cans.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Toss the apple shreds with the tablespoon of flour to coat and add to the bowl. 
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk until smooth.

Divide the batter between the cans. Drape a square of foil over each can and press to fit firmly. Set cans on a rack in a large pot and fill with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of each can.

Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the water simmers, reduce heat to low and simmer until breads are set and pull away from the sides of the can. Test with a skewer inserted into the center after 35 minutes; the skewer should come out with moist crumbs. 

Remove cans from the pot of water and place on a baking rack. Remove the foil and let cool in the can. Run a knife around the inside of the can to loosen the bread; turn the can upside down and tap it to remove the bread.

Cut thick slices and serve with apple butter or cream cheese. Optional: Toast under a broiler to reheat and firm up top and bottom. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts for an appetizer serving.

Submitted to #TwelveLoaves:
#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and run with the help of Heather of girlichef, which runs smoothly with the help of our bakers.
Our host this month is Heather from girlichef, and our theme is Apples. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month’s mouthwatering selection of #TwelveLoaves Pear Breads! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GlutenFree Double Chocolate Brownies - a Krusteaz mix

That brittle crunching noise you hear in the background, that's the sound of me eating my words... again... the ones proclaiming that I don't use boxed mixes... except for occasional bundt cakes. Sigh. Let's get the disclosure out of the way. While attending a food blogger event last month, #IFBC 2014I gathered up a box of this mix along with a ton of other samples from sponsoring vendors. Some products I shared with friends, several I have used at home, while others still languish in my too-full pantry. On Monday I was in a rush and grabbed the box of Krusteaz Gluten Free double chocolate brownie mix to bake a quick treat.

We have some house projects underway, providing an excuse to bake up some cookies or snack bars to feed the crew. The workers welcome any homemade treat, but I usually bake from scratch. Box mixes rarely make an appearance in my kitchen, but Krusteaz is a respected, local, family-owned company and the GF label piqued my curiosity: how would a GF version of brownies compare with the homemade variety? The short answer is "very well, indeed."

A 1-hour mix and bake
Adding one egg, 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup cooking oil to a box mix was an easy start. Stirring to mix and spooning into a lightly greased 8x8" glass baking dish required no effort. I couldn't resist temptation and sprinkled a small handful of chocolate chips over the top, just because an already-opened package caught my eye in the open cabinet. Why not up the chocolate chip ratio, just a little? The Krusteaz box listed a range of cooking times, 48-52 minutes for an oven preheated to 325 F, variable no doubt to account for temperature variance in ovens. There was a note to add an additional 5 minutes for glass pans. Krusteaz added a warning not to over bake, the brownies might look underdone but would firm up as they cooled. I did the math, crossed my fingers and set the timer for 55 minutes. The brownies pulled away from the edge of the pan, a cake tester emerged with no telltale crumbs, so 55 seemed like the magic number.

The results  
Anticipation grew as the enticing aroma of chocolate  wafted through the house... these had better not disappoint! Cooling seemed to take forever, but I fended off the taste testers until the pan approached room temperature. The outer crust, rimming the pan, was firm but not hard while the center remained soft and a bit gooey. Thus the 4 corners were finger friendly, 8 brownies had at least one firm, cleanly cut edge that was easy to handle, and the 4 squares in the middle were a moist and crumbly mess that required a fork. No one complained though, these brownies were the real deal with a deeply rich flavor. Notice I didn't say good for gluten free brownies. No, these were pronounced good brownies, period, end of statement. I prefer firm brownies, so I always reach for a corner piece. RL enjoyed a softer edge piece (or two), and the crew just smiled and said "thanks." The messy foursome in the middle of the pan disappeared, one bite at a time, as we cruised past.     

The brownies didn't need my extra handful of chocolate chips, but I might add some nuts or shredded coconut to the next batch - just because.

Would I use this product again? YES (notice the all caps for enthusiasm).
Would I recommend it to others? Again YES, to anyone, not just GF bakers.
Will I continue to make brownies from scratch? Probably yes in the house kitchen, unless I'm pressed for time or am missing some ingredients. But this mix will become a staple in the boat galley, replacing the current Ghiradelli mix, so I am prepared to bake brownies for anyone, any time and anywhere.
Will I stop dissing box mixes? Maybe, but some habits are hard to break. It might require a lot more brownies and bundt cake.

SugarBrown Rice Flour (Rice Flour, Rice Bran), Chocolate Chips (SugarChocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Milk Fat, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavor), Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Soybean Oil. Contains 2% Or Less of The Following: Salt, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Bicarbonate.
Nutrition Facts from Shopwell
Serving Size 3 Tbsp Mix
Servings Per Container 16
Amount Per ServingCalories140
Calories from Fat 25
% Daily Value*Total Fat 3 g 5%
Saturated Fat 1 g 5%
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 105 mg 4%
Potassium — —
Total Carbohydrate28 g 9%
Dietary Fiber 1 g 4%
Sugars 20 g
Protein 1 g
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