Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Apple Cider Quick Bread

I'm just a bit obsessed with brunch.  Something about the sweet treats that often count as breakfast mixed with the savory deliciousness of lunch and you add eggs to that? Forget about it, I would happily eat brunch all day, every day.  Once thing that often goes along with brunch is muffins and quick breads.  When you go out for brunch, the really good restaurants will place a basket of warmed muffins on the table to whet your appetite while you wait for your smoked salmon benny or blueberry griddle cakes.

I decided a way I could simulate my brunch experience on a more regular basis without always going out was to make at a muffin or quick bread.  Something sweet to have with my coffee as I get my day going.  It was easy to know what to make because there was one recipe that I had in not one but two cookbooks that I just got this Christmas.

The first is my new fave, the Craft of Baking by Karen De Masco.  Her recipes so far are practically flawless and I love how she gives little tips and tricks for tweaking and customizing each recipe to make it your own.  The second is Earth to Table, a book by two chefs based in Ontario.  It's a great book that I can't wait to get cooking from.  It is broken into seasons and is really all about Slow Food, eating locally and seasonally and each recipe is accompanied with a story or essay which I love.  One of the authors, Jeff Crump, spent some time with Chef DeMasco at Craft, where she used to send guests home with an Apple Cider Muffin for their breakfast the next day.  During his time with her Jeff made many of these muffins and really liked the idea that by the end of the night these delicious muffins would make their way all over New York City.  That story alone sold me.  I think I loved the idea of the muffins making their way around the city as much as Jeff did and it made me think that these must be some special muffins to be good enough to make it into two separate cookbooks.

The recipe is written for muffins, but I wanted to make a bread.  For some reason I just love the idea of pulling a fresh hot loaf pan out of the oven and slicing into the steaming loaf.  It is written that the recipe makes 12 muffins or 1 loaf, but I found it actually makes twice as much.  That was great for me because I froze one of the loaves for the next time we have people in town and I want something easy and impressive.

Apple Cider Quick Bread
from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco
Makes 2 loaves or 24 muffins

Unsalted butter, for the muffin tin (optional)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
3/4 cups sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 crisp baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Mutsu, peeled, cored, coarsely grated, and drained, juices reserved and used as part of the cider measurement
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan with parchment paper. 
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil. Add the eggs and whisk to combine. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a third bowl, whisk together the apple cider, sour cream, and vanilla.
3. Add one third of the flour mixture and one third of the apple cider mixture to the sugar mixture, folding with a spatula just to combine. Add the rest of the flour and cider mixtures in two additions. Fold in the grated apple, and then divide the batter evenly among with prepared muffin cups, filling each cup three quarters of the way. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the Demera sugar.
4. Bake, rotating the loaf pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Then turn out the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on the wire rack. 
5. This bread is best the second day and can be kept, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

This bread is an absolute winner, whether you do muffins or the quick bread.  It is packed with apple cinnamon flavor and perfect to go with your morning coffee or an afternoon cup of tea.  Make it right away. I promise it's the perfect thing to surprise your Valentine with on a weekday Valentine morning. 


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