Growing up, whenever my mother made her dandelion-hued chickpea curry with puris, there was a ceremony of thorough hand washing after. My parents kept a nail brush in the upstairs bathroom drawer and, while I may be remembering my grandfather’s, I remember it as the style with an open, flattened oval as its handle.  I could shape my fist around it for a firmer grip. Its short, stubby white bristles pricked the pads of my fingers sharply but made gratifying progress of scrubbing away the turmeric stains from beneath my nails.

Frothy Turmeric Tea | Tara O'Brady

Nowadays, the turmeric in my pantry has a note tucked in its jar. It's from my dad, who has particularly distinctive handwriting that's narrow and tall. He used to write against a ruler to keep his lines neat as he filled out the collection of forms required of a ship's captain at each port. Even still, his penmanship looks as though it's curved against a straight edge.

The note simply says "turmeric from your grandfather's house." In the nearish future, Grandpa's house will no longer be ours, so my stash feels particularly precious. I've been metering it in meticulous portions, trying to make it last as long as possible. 

Week before last, Tejal Rao wrote about her grandmother and the position of turmeric in her household. Then last week, somewhat of an offshoot from the conversation she started and in response to the recent treatment of turmeric as innovation, I had a piece in The Globe and Mail about traditions becoming trend, and the uncomfortable realties that can arise in the process.

On Instagram I mentioned the turmeric tea I've been making—its milk and water base is sweet but not candied. It is buzzy with ginger, warmed by cinnamon and a miserly dispensation of pepper, and rounded out with soothing cardamom. Turmeric dyes everything day-glo golden, and adds an earthy astringency. Black tea provides fragrance and structure. As some of you expressed an interest in it, here it is.

Since Sean prefers coffee in the morning and I want wring the most possible flavour out of the whole spices, I make a provocatively strong concentrate in a biggish batch, then reheat servings as needed. I froth some milk for its cap, but whisked or blended milk would work just as well. Or, just pour in plain hot milk, without the addition of bubbles.

I like the tea best with condensed milk, a fondness I'm sure I picked up from my grandmother, who at boarding school would sip on cans of the stuff in secret. It gives weight to the tea that I find especially soothing. I have mine at the hottest temperature I can stand, taking breaths around each sip. Somehow the practice seems vaguely ceremonial in a way that makes me feel as though I'm taking good care. 

 

FROTHY TURMERIC TEA

Adapted from a recipe from Tejal Rao in the New York Times, with my grandmother's influence.

Serves 4

FOR THE CONCENTRATE

  • 1 cup | 240 ml water
  • 1/4 cup | 60 ml sweetened condensed milk
  • A 2-inch piece of ginger, see note
  • 6 to 8 green cardamom pods, split
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, each broken in half
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric, or a 1 1/2-inch piece fresh, peeled and grated
  • 2 cups | 480 ml milk of choice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ghee or coconut oil, optional
  • 0.5 oz | 15 g black tea or 4 black tea bags

FOR EACH DRINK

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup | 80 to 120 ml milk of choice, steamed and frothed
  • Ground pistachios for dusting

METHOD

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the water, condensed milk, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, an turmeric. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the milk into the syrup, and spoon in the ghee. Bring to a boil again, and then knock back the heat to a simmer for another 3 minutes. Pop in the tea, and let bubble for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. Strain the concentrate through a fine meshed sieve—I find it neatest to do so into a wide jug or large liquid measuring cup with a pouring spout—and press on the solids in the basket to extract as much liquid as possible. If using the concentrate later, decant it to a jar for storage. Refrigerate until needed.

For each drink, pour one quarter hot concentrate into each cup. Top with the steaming, frothed milk, and the ground pistachios. Serve immediately. 

NOTES:

  • I use almond milk for the concentrate, and then cow's milk for finishing as I'm terribly bad at establishing a foam on the former (though I've not yet those blends aimed at stretching). I realize that makes three milks in one recipe, so use what you like. If you want to omit the condensed milk, use 1/4 cup cane sugar in its place, adding the sugar with the water to start, or honey or maple syrup instead. 
  • If making the concentrate in advance, skip the ghee as it will separate from the brew when chilled. Stir it into the reheated concentrate right before serving.
  • Grating the ginger will produce a much more assertive cuppa. To tone it down, slice or chop the root instead.
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How is it already thisclose to being June? I'm holding tight to the well-worn marks of weekly routines to remind myself of the borders between these days, rather than accepting them as a smear across the calendar.

I am happiest with a schedule, and yet want Monday to feel different than Wednesday. Saturdays are for the farmer's market and tacos for breakfast, Tuesdays are often a standing bibimbap lunch, and Sunday night is when I make granola.

Emma Galloway's Tahini and Orange Granola from her book "My Darling Lemon Thyme" | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

When I was fine-tuning the recipes for my book, certain ones that had always been part of my weekly to-do list became even more so entrenched in the way we do things around here. The soft sandwich bread took over the bread box, instead of sharing the space with the milk-and-honey-enriched loaf that was our alternate. I was giving away jar after jar of the pickled strawberry preserves. I had a freezer's worth of variations on the Walnut, Cherry Butter Tart Pie (there was one with milk chocolate, one with bittersweet, and one with cacao nibs; then one with pecans instead of the walnuts, another with bourbon, and one with dried cranberries, and every permutation in between).  The clumpy granola became our one and only, and it was made with such devotedness that there was usually a surplus stashed in the pantry.

Once the book was done and out in the world, I took a break from many of those recipes, first off because—and nobody tells you this—while you're promoting a book you end up doing very little cooking. Then it was summertime, when our schedule had only the loosest of parameters. Slowly, slowly with fall and winter and school and holidays, I found my way again to the little ceremonies of my kitchen.

I'm back to a varied bread baking program, and the yeasted ones from the book are supplemented with a rye-heavy sourdough on the regular. The butter tart pie was was on the table at Thanksgiving, and it'll be shuttled to the cottage this summer. 

Now the granola has its antithetical compatriot sharing a shelf. While mine is rough with clusters, this one from Emma Galloway's My Darling Lemon Thyme, is snappy, crackling and light. Hers is a toasted muesli, with a combination of flaked grains, coconut, seeds, and nuts, plus such a collection of dried fruit that each bite is a change from the one before. The kicker really is Emma's ingenious binding agent; tahini, mixed with coconut oil and honey. The resulting syrup is rich without going overboard, and not overly sweet. It is fragrant yet not sickly, evocatively savoury almost. In short, it's compellingly good. 

Sarah wrote about this recipe just last month, so I consider this adding my voice to the chorus of praise as this muesli is one for encores. 

Emma Galloway's Tahini Orange Muesli from "My Darling Lemon Thyme"| Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

EMMA GALLOWAY'S TAHINI, ORANGE + COCONUT TOASTED MUESLI

"Muesli-making was always my dad's domain when we were little. Late at night he would set himself up in the kitchen, toasting and chopping like a mad man, before decanting the goods into his giant glass muesli jar. I remember him saying how expensive it was to make but, and this is a huge BUT, homemade muesli beats that store-bought sweetened stuff hands down. This is my favourite version, and it's filled to the brim with the goodness of quinoa flakes, shredded coconut, nuts, and fruit all bound together in a sweet (but not in-your-face-sweet) mixture of coconut oil, tahini, honey, and orange zest. To keep things strictly mean you can use pure maple or brown rice syrup in place of the honey. Also, whole-grain oats can be used in place of the quinoa flakes."

— From My Darling Lemon Thyme: Recipes from my Real Food Kitchen by Emma Galloway (Roost Books, 2015)

Makes 1.5kg | 2 pounds

INGREDIENTS (please see below and the note for my changes)

  • 5 cups | 500 g quinoa flakes 
  • 2 cups |180g unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut (I used both)
  • 1/2 cup | 65g cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup | 75g whole raw almonds, roughly chopped (I used flaked)
  • 1/2 cup | 65g pumpkin (pepita) seeds
  • 1/2 cup | 60g sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup | 35g sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup | 80ml virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup | 80ml un-hulled tahini
  • 1/3 cup | 80ml honey, pure maple or brown rice syrup (I used maple)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • The finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup | 200g natural raisins or sultanas 
  • 1 1/2 cups | 165g dried cranberries
  • 1 cup | 95g firmly packed dried apple slices, roughly chopped 
  • 1/2 cup | 80g pitted dried dates, roughly chopped

METHOD

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Combine quinoa flakes, coconut, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds in a large bowl using your hands to combine thoroughly. Combine coconut oil, honey or syrup, tahini, vanilla, orange zest and sea salt in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring constantly until melted and combined. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well.

Transfer to a large deep baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until toasty and golden brown. Watch those edges like a hawk as they have a tendency to burn. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Stir in the dried fruit and transfer to a large glass jar or airtight container. Will keep for 2-3 weeks as long as airtight.

NOTE FROM TARA:

Instead of quinoa alone, I used 3 cups rolled oats11/2 cups quinoa flakes, and 1/2 cup buckwheat groats. I tailored the fruit to my sons' preferences, using 1/2 cup sultanas1/2 cup chopped figs1 cup dried cranberries1/2 cup dried cherries1/2 cup dried blueberries1/4 cup minced candied ginger, and 1/2 cup pitted dried dates, chopped.

Last but not least, thank you for the generosity of your kindness in response to my post about my grandfather. You guys are the absolute best. xo

When leafing through The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak last week, I kept coming back to the page for her cinnamon buns. 

no yeast cinnamon buns from Violet Bakery | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

If you've been around here for a while, you might know that one of my favourite breakfast pastries are sugar buns (Tartine Bakery's morning bun made with a whole-wheat variation on Nigella Lawson's Danish dough, and laced with almond and orange). Besides bostocks, they are usually my holiday morning go-to, and it is rare that I stray from that habit.

However (!), Ptak's recipe is made without yeast; the dough gets its rise from baking powder instead, like the cousin of a scone or sweet biscuit. That was enough to intrigue. Plus they were pretty; perfectly golden arabesques dusted with sugar. Total lookers. So curiosity got the better of me.

You make the dough in a stand mixer, crumbling up cold butter into the dry ingredients, then adding milk until a dough curls up around the paddle. Simple. The dough rolls out smooth and supple, twirls back up into an impressive swirl, then bakes into delicate layers with just a touch of elasticity for some chew. 

The cinnamon swirl is backed up in spice by some cardamom in the dough and the combo comes off friskier than either on their own. It's exactly right. And, if you can find Ceylon cinnamon, this is the time to use it. 

It's Thanksgiving coming up, and we are going apple picking sometime this week — I'm toying with the idea of a second go with these for the holiday weekend, this time wafer thin slices of sautéed apples and blitzed almonds wrapped up in the coil. I think that might be a good idea. Still, I didn't want to hold out on you on the recipe, so here they are. 

Happy start of the week, talk soon.


VIOLET BAKERY'S CINNAMON BUNS (yeast free)

"Of course a soft yeasty bun can be a wonderful thing, but at Violet we have never had enough space to work with yeasted bread doughs. They take up more room and need larger machines. I came up with these yeast-free buns in my home kitchen by looking back through the cookbooks of the 1950s, when everything was about how to make things more quickly. Quick breads, as breads leavened with baking powder or baking soda are called, were an alternative to the time-consuming yeast or sourdough breads. Truly, they are something altogether different. They both have their place on the table. This recipe can also be made ahead then frozen in the muffin tin until ready to bake."

— from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak (Ten Speed Press, 2015)

Makes 12 buns

FOR THE FILLING

  • 75g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
  • 250g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

FOR THE CINNAMON BUNS

  • 560g (4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 240g (1 cup plus 1 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes)
  • 300g (1 1/4 cups) cold milk
  • sugar, for dipping
  • butter, for greasing the pan

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F (180°C/355°F convection).

Butter a 12-cup deep muffin pan.

First, prepare the feeling. Melt the butter and leave in a warm place so that it remains liquid. Mixed together the light brown sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

Now make the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour into cold milk while the mixer is running, until dough forms into a ball and comes away from the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Fold the dough gently over itself once or twice to pull it all together let the dough rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Clear a large surface, dust lightly with more flour, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle until almost 5mm (1/8 inch) thick. Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter and, before the butter hardens, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on to the butter. You want a good, slightly thick layer.

Now roll the long side, keeping it neat and tidy. Gently tug the dough toward you to get a taut roll while rolling away from you in a spiral. Once it’s all rolled up, gently squeeze the roll to ensure it’s the same sickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut the roll crosswise into 12 even slices. Take a slice of the cinnamon roll, peel back about 5 cm (2 inches) of the loose end of the pastry and fold back under the roll too loosely cover the bottom of the roll. Place in the muffin pan, flap side down. Repeat with remaining slices.

Bake the buns for 25 minutes. As soon as they're out of the oven, flip them over onto a wire cooling rack so that they don't stick to the tray. Dip each cinnamon bun into a bowl of sugar and serve right away.

NOTES FROM TARA:

  • There seems to be an error in the volume conversion in the book for this entry — the flour is listed as 560g or 1 1/2 cups, but that weight is actually about 4 1/2 cups and I've changed the recipe to reflect that.

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I wrote about Sara Forte's last book, her first book, right after my grandmother passed away. That sounds a morbid opening, but I don't mean it to be. In truth, the association offers its own kind of comfort. Sara's food is very much a means of taking good care of yourself, and a means to do so for those you love. My association of welcome and Sara is indelible, and I think that may be the same for a lot of you, too. 

Sara's new book with photography by her husband Hugh, Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon, is just memorable as that first, and once again arrived at a time when my grandmother was on my mind. 

Sara Forte's Baked Eggs with Barely Creamed Greens and Mustardy Bread | Tara O'Brady

With my own book coming out in 12 days (12 days!!) the reality has settled in. It has landed on my shoulders not as weight, but as something else, like the static shocks you get from rubbing your feet on the carpet. It feels like a current buzzing between my shoulder blades.

And, with each day closer, I wonder more and more often about what my grandmother would think of the book. 

Gigi had a tendency to grant praise partnered with just enough criticism that the compliment didn't go to your head. While it may have come across as feisty, or perhaps sharp of her to say so, the critique kept things in perspective. And, there was the added value of that.

Once, upon reading an article I'd written, she told it was very good, but maybe too serious. It would benefit from a joke. Preferably a dirty one.

Sara Forte's Baked Eggs with Barely Creamed Greens and Mustardy Bread | Photo by Tara O'Brady

In my view, Sara's book, and her work in general, offers both deliciousness and perspective in balance. Interwoven with her inventive combinations of texture and taste is subtle encouragement and simple advice on making sensible, responsible choices for our health and environment. Beauty and flavour are not sacrificed in her commitment to whole food and eating healthfully, but rather highlighted by it, as she creates meals without anything to get in the way of the natural gorgeousness of her ingredients.

The book is centred around what Sara calls "bowl food", an inherently soul-satisfying concept. That style of serving, with everything nudged up close in a vessel with nothing overwrought in its presentation or eating, is actually my favourite sort of meal. I like how you can gather up whatever components in your ideal proportion and how, often, it's a one-utensil, no-cutting-required kind of ease of mealtime. (Especially helpful for when you're feeding kids, or particularly tired adults. Or particularly tired adults attempting to feed children.)

Sara fills her bowls with all manner of grains, pulses, and vegetables, with lean proteins included now and again. She has morning to night sorted, including dessert. One day for lunch I made her Baked Eggs with Barely Creamed Greens and Mustardy Bread — it was supposed to be bread "crumbs" but I have an affection for a fatty-fat chunk of bread, so made rustic croutons instead. Some were small about a half-inch or so, others big, for double-dunking into the egg. The mustard on those toasty cubes is a winner, along with their bit of salt. The vinegar and assertive seasoning splits the richness of the cream, yolk, and cheese in the bowl. I used kale for my greens and they were perfectly silky but not obscenely rich. I've made her ribboned salad with maple-glazed tofu, am making her leek and pea soup for a friend today, and have plans for her soaked oats and Eton mess once the local berries arrive. (Please tell me that spring is coming. Today it's freezing rain. Again.) 

Bowl and Spoon is the perfect companion to Sara's first book, and very much the extension of what she started there. It's Sara through-and-through, which may be all I need to say.

 

Before we get to the recipe, a bit of housekeeping. First off, thank you to those of you who have preordered my book! For a moment there it was at #1 on two categories on Amazon, and I almost fell out of my chair. Seriously. You guys are too great. It has been such a treat to see folks cooking from the preorder recipe bundle, and I hope you're loving the brownies. (Please tag me when you share images or thoughts — @taraobrady on all social media — or use the tag #sevenspoonscookbook, if you can! I don't want to miss any.)

That said, the two recipes exclusive to the bundle (there are also five recipes from the book, including flaky biscuits!), are just that — only available with preorders. So if the one bowl, crackly-topped, gluten free brownies or garlicy, herby, chickpea yogurt soup are recipes you'd like, that's the way to get them. (The link to claim your recipe pack are on the sidebar.)

There's more! Penguin Random House of Canada has posted their own preview, with not only except of some of the book's text, but also my Bee Stung Fried Chicken with Korean gochujang honey to finish, and my method for Avocado Toast. Take a look, here. 

Also, I've started adding events to the News + Events section on the top bar. There will be more there soon!

Finally, for I truly appreciate all the feedback on what sort of information you'd hope to see in regards to writing a book, and how the opportunity came about for me. I'm working on the posts, and so keep any such suggestions coming! Until then, Heidi shared the most beautiful look at her proposal process, and it is truly inspiring. 

That's it for now. I want to pop in once more before the book comes out, so I'll see you then.

 

BAKED EGGS WITH BARELY CREAMED GREENS AND MUSTARDY BREAD 

"This started as a Bon Appétit recipe that got repurposed for the blog, and now has made its way into bowl format for this book. I am always looking for everyday breakfast that can be put together relatively quickly, especially with eggs. I bake these in small shallow baking dishes, but a large ramekin or cast-iron pan works great as well. I assume two eggs per person and serve it with fruit and toast for dipping in the yolks.

The French, who more beautifully call baked eggs oafs en cocotte, often use a bain-marie for ideal egg texture, but I find the following approach just as suitable. "

— From Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon by Sara Forte (Ten Speed Press, 2015)

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoons coarse ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh torn bread, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (or spinach, kale, or a mix), stemmed and coarsely chopped (about 9 cups chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for the pans
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 8 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup grated Gruyère
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish
  • Chopped freshly parsley, for garnish

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 400°F and set a rack in the upper third. Wipe the insides of four gratin dishes or large ramekins with butter and set on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together the coarse ground mustard, 1 tablespoon of the Dijon mustard, the olive oil, and salt. Add the bread crumbs and toss to coat. Spread the on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until crispy. Set the bread crumbs aside, but leave the oven on.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add just enough water to cover the bottom; add the greens. Toss until wilted down, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a strainer and press out the excess liquid. You should have about 2 heaping cups greens. Wipe out the skillet and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent, about 1 minutes. Add the greens, the remaining tablespoon of Dijon mustard, the cream, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir until warmed through and just thickened, about 3 minutes.

Divide the greens between the prepared dishes and bake on the sheet in the upper third of the oven for 8 minutes. Remove sheet and carefully break two eggs onto the greens in each dish. Sprinkle the tops with a pinch of pepper and a few tablespoons of the Gruyère and bake for 6 minutes, until the whites are just cooked but the yolks still runny. Let them sit for a minute to settle. Garnish with the bread crumbs, thyme, and parsley. 

 

NOTES FROM TARA:

  • The well-prepared cook I am, I was out of parsley and thyme, so had to leave them off. I added dried chile flakes for some extra colour and because I have an addiction to spice with eggs and cheese.

All apologies for the limited photo evidence of this cherry and blueberry buckle. Considering it was deemed sufficiently cooled at the precise start of overtime play of the World Cup semifinal between Argentina and the Netherlands, it is an achievement that one was taken at all. Lesson learned yesterday — during stressful plays, cake is appreciated. 

This is an easy cake to appreciate.

Cherry + Blueberry Buckle | Tara O'Brady on seven spoons

Since we're friends, I feel I can be honest. I wasn't sure about this buckle. All cards on the table, I had doubts. The batter seemed meagre. And then it felt dense; too solid to accept the fruit I attempted to press into its buttery thickness. It had to be scraped into the pan, and then its resistant clumps pushed into place. 

That said, the topping was really nice. It felt like wet sand between my fingers, the kind perfect for castle building. 

Baking, the cake smelled really nice, as well. I'd swapped out nutmeg for ginger and cardamom to go with the cinnamon, and the combination was intoxicatingly fragrant, weighty but without the nose-tickling warmth of wintry sweets. 

I usually know I'm on to something good when one of the boys stops what he is doing to ask what's in the oven. In this case, both did. 

I kept a suspicious eye on the cake's progress, and felt a nervous relief when it looked to rise exceptionally well. The top was browned and rubbled, shot through by valleys filled with deep purple juice. 

When the cake was cut, it lived up to its name and folded under the knife as the blade slid through. Inside, those rivulets of juice led to puddled, cooked fruit, mottling the cake's crumb. It was damp and soft, and I worried if it is was overly much so, that the heat had done little to dispel the stickiness.

Since we're friends, I feel I can also admit when I was wrong. Because, was I ever. 

The cake is damp. It is soft. It is held together by its crust, and once it's broken, all bets are off. It is not one to cut neatly. Yet, it is staggeringly sublime as is, eaten out of hand in unstable chunks, or with a spoon and a mound of crème fraîche or a lick of cream or custard. It is a buttery muffin-meets-cobbler-meets-coffeecake kind of thing. It is custardy where cake meets fruit, and crunchy where there is streusel, which is to say, a buckle for cheering. And I can't wait to try it with raspberries. Or nectarines. Or both.

Happy Friday's eve.

 

CHERRY + BLUEBERRY BUCKLE

From Salt Water Farm via Bon Appétit, with changes. Rewritten in my words and with weight measures.  

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (32 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup (57 g) unsalted butter, cold and diced

FOR THE CAKE

  • 1/4 cup (57 g) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups (191 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or seeds scraped from a vanilla bean
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 10 ounces (283 g) pitted cherries, I used a mix of tart and sweet
  • 6 ounces (170 g)  blueberries, fresh or defrosted

METHOD
Start with the topping. Whisk sugar, flour, and spices in a medium bowl. Tumble in the butter cubes and rub between your fingers until the mixture is evenly damp and coming together in clumps. Set aside.

For the cake, preheat an oven to 350°F / 175°C. Grease an 8-inch springform or removable bottom pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment, then grease the parchment. Dust the pan with flour, and tap out the excess.

Whisk the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. 

In another medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, around 5 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat to combine, 2 minutes. Turn the speed down to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring until mostly incorporated. Pour in the cream and stir until smooth. With a spatula, fold in the cherries and blueberries.The batter will be quite thick, and may not fold easily; as long as the fruit is somewhat stuck into the batter, all will be fine. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Place tin on a rimmed baking sheet, then sprinkle the topping over the batter in an even layer. 

Bake in the hot oven until the buckle is golden brown and a cake tester poked into the centre comes out clean, 75-90 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let the cool completely. Unmold and serve, as is, or dusted with icing sugar, and maybe a spoon or two of custard. 

Note: I think this buckle would be ideal baked in individual portions, thus dispensing of any fuss of slicing. I've not tried that route, but wanted to have the notion on record.

 

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You may have noticed the snazzy button on the left. I'm honoured to be nominated for a Best Food Blog Award from Saveur Magazine, in the category of Best Cooking Blog. If you'd like to vote, please click the links, or that award badge on the sidebar. The polls closed April 9th., and congratulations to the winners! Thank you for any and all support. xo

 

The world may not need another banana bread recipe, but banana bread is what I'd offer if you were to come over for coffee today. It has roasted bananas, oats, a whole bunch of seeds and nuts, and then a streusel-ish top. And chocolate. There's chocolate in there. Hopefully you'd be up for a slice.

choco-oat-nut roasted banana bread | tara o'brady

I took Home Economics in grade seven. We sewed stuffed animals, learned to iron, and baked a coffee cake that was my first introduction to a New York-style crumb. At the end of each day, we’d do the dishes. The teacher taught us to fill a sink with hot, soapy water at the start of class in anticipation; as we dirtied dishes, in they’d go, so when it was time for clean up, they were already soaking. Knives were the exception. Knives went on the counter, set to one side. "The last thing you want," she'd say, "is to plunge your hand in a sink full of water and find a blade."

For a long time, I was afraid of the knife in the dishwater. The biggest risks in my life were those that happened too fast to for me to consider them first. I didn't jump in, or leap, or leave things to fate. 

In light of all that, it may seem uncharacteristic of me to encourage you to take this recipe and run with it. Seriously. Take note of the basics and go, go, go from there. I've talked about (almost) this one before, in UPPERCASE a few years ago, and it's close to an old standby. As with most breads of its size and ilk there is a basic ratio of (around) 2 cups flour to 3 or 4 bananas to 2 eggs. Fats, from butter to coconut oil to olive oil, will vary, but not by much. 1/3 cup is fairly average. Stay in those parameters, and the possibilities open from there; swap the nuts, add candied ginger or dried fruit. It will be different each time, and almost assuredly very good. 

choco-oat-nut roasted banana bread | tara o'brady

This specific combination came about because of William. He wanted us to make banana bread, and I agreed. As any child in his position would do, Will then proceeded to take best advantage, suggesting we incorporate his favourite things into the loaf. Walnuts, sure. Maple syrup, you betcha. (His grandfather is in the thick of sugaring season.) Cinnamon, alrighty. And because he is five-almost-six years old, chocolate chips. That loaf was gone in a flash. 

A few days later, with a craving for more bread and without any ripe bananas around, I baked barely-ripe fruit to replicate that deep, caramel sweetness of almost-past-their-prime specimens. Once allover black and smelling like butterscotch, I mashed them in the bowl with the sugars, oil (olive, as I was going for a peppery, green sharpness), brown sugar, maple syrup, and eggs. Though it is better form to whisk the dry ingredients before adding to the wet, I was trying to save on bowls for cleanup, so unceremoniously dumped the flours et al on top—it's worth doing the same. When looking for bananas in the freezer I had come across the last spoonfuls of various seeds stashed in there, thought to use them up. 

Sour cream followed for even more sharpness and extra moisture, then chocolate, and nuts. My choice of chocolate is regular bar-style, chopped. I like how chunks push and melt into the batter, so there are pockets of richness in the crumb, but you could stick with William and go for chips. They stay in their discreet kiss shapes, firm and vaguely resistant to the tooth. 

Since I still had seeds to use, streusel solved the problem. The laziest streusel, really. Simply some more oats, flour, seeds, and spice, dampened with olive oil. One last banana arranged on top, and we were off.

choco-oat-nut roasted banana bread | tara o'brady

The bread was not what was expected. I had envisioned it would be more like a dessert, but it was restrained. Cake-ish, but still bread. Moderately sweet, tender, stodgy in that way that we know and love about banana breads. While, yes, it is packed crust to crust with all manner of good things, there's not enough of one specific thing to pull attention. The streusel comes closest, baking up scraggly and cracked, but it adds more chew than crunch. The walnuts and oats contribute similarly, and the overall impression is a surprisingly wholesome, a bit woollen, and gentle.

It's a reliable loaf. I am convinced it would get you through Home Ec, and whatever were to follow.

 

 CHOCO-OAT-NUT ROASTED BANANA BREAD

 A note on pans. My original recipe upon which this Frankensteinian version is based fills a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. I think this one would squeeze into that size, with an increase in baking time and you'd probably have to tent it with foil towards the end, too. The trouble is, with all the extras added, I'm not absolutely certain that it would emerge with an impressive crown rather than ooze all over the oven. If you give it a go, please report back with your findings.

To that end, and as the last thing I want to do is lead you astray, the directions below reflect the pan I used this time, a long, narrow one, or the alternate option of a tube pan. When using the latter, start checking for doneness at the 50-minute mark. 

FOR THE BREAD

  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 4 bananas, ripe but firm
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup (105 g) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup (125 ml) pure maple syrup, grade B is my preference, but I'll take whatever dad has boiled
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (105 g) whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) rolled oats
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons mixed seeds (I used sunflower, hemp hearts and sesame)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon medium-grained kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream or thick, plain yogurt (not nonfat)
  • 4 ounces (115 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 1 tablespoon rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons mixed seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus extra if needed)
  • 1 banana, ripe but firm

METHOD

Preheat an oven to 350°/175°C with a rack in the lower third. Grease a 14-by-4.5-inch loaf pan with butter. Line with parchment paper, with long sides overhanging. Butter the parchment. Alternatively, butter and flour a standard tube pan, knocking out excess.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then place the 4 bananas, whole and unpeeled, on top. Bake until the skin is deeply roasted on both sides, but not split, 20 to 30 minutes. Flip once during baking, and add the walnuts to the tray for the last 10 minutes of roasting (if t here's a lot of liquid from the bananas, give the nuts their own tray). Remove the bananas to a bowl to collect their juices. Chop the walnuts and set aside.

Once the bananas have cooled a little, remove the peels and leave the fruit in the bowl. Mash to a pulp with the brown sugar. Beat in the maple syrup, olive oil, followed by the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Stir in the vanilla. Sprinkle the flours, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger on top of the wet ingredients. Fold to almost combine, then spoon in the sour cream. Give a few more turns, then gently incorporate the chocolate and walnuts. Scape the batter into the prepared pan. 

In a small bowl, stir together the oats, seeds, flour, cinnamon, and olive oil until it clumps. Honestly, I do this with my fingers, and scrunch it together. Peel and slice the banana into thirds lengthwise. Scatter the streusel over the batter, then arrange the banana on top. Bake in the preheated oven until the bread is golden and puffed, and a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean of batter (chocolate doesn't count), 60 to 70 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, then use the parchment to lift the loaf onto the rack to cool completely. 

Makes 1 loaf.

 

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Finally, another piece of news! I will be speaking at Food Bloggers of Canada's conference this fall. I will be partnered with Robert McCullough, Vice President, Random House of Canada and publisher at Appetite by Random House, and the Canadian publisher of my book. The event will be in Vancouver, BC on October 17-19th. Details are on their site, and I'll be sure to share more particulars as they're finalized. Hope to see you there!

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