Monday, June 04, 2007

Midyear: Introspections and New Bakings

Summer was just about to pack up when downpour came early this year. I love rain and cloudy skies and I embrace it with bright optimism by way of earmarking comforting fuzzy-sounding recipes and taking far longer coffee breaks amidst the thrashing and rustling. I just became aware that we're now at the threshold of the 2nd part of the year-- a somewhat heartening thought ever since my life motto became "something great is just around the corner". At the risk of sounding cliche, optimism does reflect in one's aura. I've seen that in many people from different walks of life and I must admit, it is impressive.

And I also bought a new book: Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. A book with vibrant pictures, funny anecdotes, helpful tips and a whole collection of viable recipes that can be easily made in your own kitchen! I've eyed this book even before it was made available in local bookstores; I've read praises after praises but only got my own copy last week when I visited my favorite bookstore (I'm sure they've been available weeks before but it was only last weekend that I found time to visit).

As with all my previous books (bought or borrowed), I read them page by page and I do mean every page, even the acknowledgment and introduction pages. It lulls away idle times between getting to bed and actually falling asleep. And sometimes, there is a neat tip or two tucked in them, in the likelihood of Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts. More importantly, it tunes me into the thoughts of the author and the idea of the book, which -- stripped of its glossy cover and hard bound bookends-- is most often just getting into somebody's food interpretation of being a fan of domesticity and simple, natural homebound bakes.
Mango Bread

The first to be baked from my new book is Mango Bread. I've always had a keen interest on what a mango bread would taste like and how the succulent mangoes would adapt to a batter--as I feel that it is a tad bit too juicy for comfort. So I proceeded, made sure that I read right when there was no liquid ingredient called for. The juicy chopped mangoes proved to be propitious as the batter was stiff (also noted in the book). One third of the recipe is perfect for a 6"x2" round cake pan and for something so small, it took quite longer to bake than I expected, the center remained wet even when the rest of the top was about to get done. When the potency of a little dash of cinnamon wafted through the air with a mingling scent of something tangy and sweet, I knew it was ready.

According to Greenspan, the bread is best consumed after letting it rest overnight and I agree. However good it is freshly baked, the taste did improve when the components were given the time to develop and get to know each other. The texture is slightly dense and moist with a taste akin to carrot cake, especially with the presence of raisins and cinnamon. I like how the nuggets of mangoes remained tasty and juicy, subjecting the bread to a more profound taste that is both bright and downright homey. As you can see in the picture, I couldn't be bothered to remove the cake from its pan. I feel that this cake is part of the repertoire of comfort foods-- along with warm apple pie and pineapple upside down cake-- that it should just be as easily popped into the oven and warmed before topping with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and everybody gets to dig in!

Fresh Mango Bread
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/2 C All purpose flour
1 C sugar
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
1 1/2 t ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 c light brown sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 c flavorless oil
2 C diced mango
3/4 C plump raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 81/2 x 41/2 loaf pan or 3 6x2" round pans, lining the bottom with parchment paper (Greenspan instructs simply to grease and flour, but I've always depended on wax paper for spotless removal). Put the pan on an insulated sheet or on 2 regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other to keep the bottom from overbaking (I failed to use 2 baking sheets but the bottom part remained moist).
2. In a large bowl using a wire whisk, whisk together eggs and oil. It will become homogeneous and a bit pale in color.
3. Whisk together all the dry ingredients, breaking brown sugar lumps if there's any. Pour the wet ingredients over dry -- the batter will be very thick -- gently mix and fold in chopped mangoes and raisins, the batter will loosen up and be more "spreadable". Pour onto prepared pans and smooth tops.
4. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If the sides are browning way before the bread finishes baking, cover area loosely with foil. Let cool for 5 minutes and loosen from mold.

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