Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds

Impatient bakers love a good quick bread – the no-yeast, no-hassle loaf that teeters between bread and dessert. Typically a touch sweet, with a crumb more cakelike than its yeast-risen cousins, quick bread is an easy solution for bakers who don’t feel like waiting.

This version is a variation on the master recipe for Fruit (or Vegetable)-and-Nut Bread from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Of the endless possibilities (think Banana-Walnut, Cranberry-Pecan, Zucchini-Sunflower, Pumpkin Ginger with Hazelnuts…) the one that struck me was a Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds. The shredded carrots ensure moisture, while the slivered almonds lend a consistent crunch. A combination of grains (all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran) yields a denser, heartier loaf, and brown sugar brings the right touch of molasses sweetness, while orange zest brightens the whole thing.

[Adapted from Mark Bittman]
Yield: 1 loaf

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, plus butter for the pan 
2 cups all-purpose flour (I did a combination of 1 ¼ cups all-purpose,
½ cup whole wheat, and ¼ cup course wheat bran) 
1 cup brown sugar (golden or dark) 
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
½ teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
¾ cup almond milk 
1 tablespoon grated orange zest 
1 egg 
1 cup grated carrots 
½ cup sliced almonds 

1. Heat the oven to 350d F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter.

2. Stir together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into bits, then use a fork, 2 knives, or your fingers to cut or rub it into the dry ingredients until there are no pieces bigger than a small pea. (You can use a food processor for this step, which makes it quite easy, but you should not use a food processor for the remaining steps or the bread will be tough.)

3. Beat together the milk, zest and egg. Pour into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten; do not beat and do not mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in the fruit and the nuts, then pour and spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about an hour, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing.

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