High Country Baking column: Strawberry quick bread
May 22, 2013
Editor's note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn't. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
"Good, easy, pretty" … that's what I scribbled on the margin of my recipe for this quick bread after making it for the first time. Now that I've baked it on many more occasions, my description still holds true. With a moist, light texture, the crunch of walnuts and the taste of strawberries enhanced by a little lemon zest and nutmeg, this bread is a pleasing little treat. Serve it for breakfast, accompany it with fruit and cheese after dinner or wrap it, top it with a bow and give it as a gift.
Getting it in the oven is almost as much fun as eating it once it comes out. The dry ingredients are combined, the strawberries are mashed and added to the wet ingredients, then they're all quickly blended and ready for the pan.
What could go wrong? Very little as long as you find some ripe, tasty berries, measure your ingredients accurately and don't over beat the batter, (all it needs is gentle stirring).
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Make in a 3-inch-by-6-½-inch metal loaf pan
(Measure bottom of pan)
3/4 plus 1 tablespoon bleached flour (spoon and level)
1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
5 ounces strawberries (about a generous half cup)
1 large egg
1/4 cup Canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
With a rack in the center position, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (the oven should be at that temperature for at least ten minutes before baking the bread).
Line the pan, from one long side to the other, with a sheet of aluminum foil, letting it hang over the edges of the pan so you can use it as handles when removing the baked bread. Spray the pan, foil and all, with a flour-vegetable oil non-stick spray. Set the pan aside.
Combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix them well. Stir in the chopped nuts, distributing them throughout the dry ingredients. Set this aside.
Slice the strawberries into pieces about 1/2-inch in size, place them in a bowl and mash them lightly (I use a potato masher to do this; a large fork also works well) until there are small lumps of berry visible throughout a thick, chunky sauce.
In another bowl, whisk the egg, canola oil and lemon zest together until well mixed. Add the berries and stir to combine.
Pour this over the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl well (make sure to use all of the moist mixture). Using a gentle hand, stir/fold only until the ingredients are blended — the dry ingredients will be uniformly moistened and the batter will be smooth.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan; it should be about two-thirds full. Don't overfill the pan, even if you have a little batter left over.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This takes around 40-45 minutes in my oven. The bread will have a fairly flat top, often with a crack in the center.
Remove the baked bread to a rack and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Then, using the foil handles, carefully lift it out of the pan, and place it directly on the rack (not on the foil) to continue cooling.
As soon as it's cooled (don't let it sit out in our dry mountain air any longer than needed), wrap it airtight and refrigerate the strawberry bread until it's chilled, preferably overnight. While this isn't absolutely necessary, doing so will make it much easier to slice and will give the flavor time to develop.
Once it is cut, let the bread return to room temperature before serving. It's moist enough to nibble unadorned, but we also like it with strawberry jam or cream cheese flavored with a little lemon zest.
This is a variation of a King Arthur Flour recipe.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.