Sunday, April 13, 2014
Playing Around With Apricots And Pecan
One of the many things I love about Dorie Greenspan's recipes is that she often includes a sidebar with suggestions for changes one can make to the recipe. My favorites are the ones she calls 'Playing Around' because it resembles what I often do with recipes, which is to substitute out ingredients to give a whole new flavor blend to the recipe.
I recently baked up one of her quick breads, the Date-Nut Loaf found in Baking: from my home to yours. In the Playing Around section she suggests that the dates can be exchanged for other dried fruits, including apricots. Sweetie loves apricots, plus the dates I thought I could use turned out to be too old, so I used a cup of diced dried apricots (which are actually moist and sticky, so they were also dusted with some flour before being added to the batter) instead of the dates. Because I like apricots and pecans, the nuts used were pecans instead of walnuts. I also left out the almond extract so that the apricot and pecan flavors would shine. They did! The crumb on this is moist and fairly light. Some quick breads have a dense texture, but not this one. This was one of four recipes I made for a meeting of our regional scholarship group. The others might show up here later: Bran Muffins with Walnuts and Raisins baked in mini-muffin pans, Cranberry Orange Yeast Braid, and Rosemary Focaccia Bread, which I've made before, but this time I baked it in a 9 x 13-inch pan instead of two cake pans. Still very yummy!
Did I mention that I also baked the Apricot Pecan batter in four mini-loaves? So cute and perfect for the meeting where I was serving them! The only difficult thing about these is remembering to set out the butter and cream cheese to allow them to come to room temperature and then to let the loaves cool before slicing. They smell so good that it is cruel to have to wait, but they need the time to be firm enough to slice. Give this a try with apricots and pecans, or go with the original combo of dates and walnuts. Both are sure to put a smile on your face.
Apricot Pecan Loaf
a variation of a recipe in Dorie Greenspan's marvelous Baking: From my home to yours
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried apricots, diced and dusted with a bit of flour
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or two regular sheets stacked on on top of the other.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Working with a stand mixer and paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes.You can do the same thing using a hand mixer and a large bowl.
Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, another 3 minutes or so. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. The batter may look curdled (mine did), but don't worry, it will come together after you add the flour mixture.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the flour mixture, mixing only until they are incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the apricots and pecans. (This step is important. Folding in the fruit and nuts makes for a lighter loaf than adding them with the mixer would.) Turn the batter into the pan.
Bake for 40 minutes. Cover the top of the loaf loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 40 minutes or so (total baking time about 1 hour, 20 minutes), until the top is honey brown, bumpy and cracked and a thin knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. (Since I used the four small pans, it took about 40 minutes total.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool about 10 minutes before turning the loaf out of the pan, then cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.