Watching the Super Bowl was incredibly fun for me, at least for the first three quarters. This may seem odd since I’m a Colorado native who cheered on the Broncos during John Elway days, kissing Vance Johnson of the Three Amigos as I passed their poster in my bedroom, but Seattle now has my heart. I haven’t cared about American football since I was young. If I am going to jump on the bandwagon and cheer on a team, choosing the Seahawks is natural. Despite our fair-weather status, we exhibited plenty of loud cheers, enthusiastic jumps and high-fives during the blow-out, but by the fourth quarter, we were simultaneously cringing for the Broncos and cheering them on to score. I felt bad for all my Colorado family and friends who are serious fans.
Much of why our evening was so delightful went beyond the game. We watched with some of our longest known Seattle friends, with whom we also happened to watch the last Seahawks Super Bowl game in 2006. That sad performance was the last football game most of us had watched until the championship game a few weeks ago! Clearly, we are well suited to watch together. They also don’t have a tv hooked-up, but they finagled a way to bring in reception. Now that’s bandwagon devotion!
Because my friend and I value the quality of food at events more than the sports, we coordinated efforts. To present some green and blue, I made a cheese and cracker platter that included blue cheese, bucheron, aged cheddar, Aran’s glutten-free hazelnut pastry crackers, Dorie’s herbed olives (using green! olives), pickled fennel, fig butter, quince paste, and pistachios. Dinner was her adapted version of Melissa Clark’s garam masala roasted chicken and my simplest kid-friendly kale salad (which EVERY kid ate! Hello?!). She topped it all off with an orange chocolate ganache olive oil cake. If I hadn’t eaten so much cheese, I would’ve considered eating the rest of that cake.
I LOVE THE SUPER BOWL. (It’s got “bowl” for a reason beyond stadiums, I’m sure!)
The five kids mostly played together and watched cartoons, running in and out to check on the game (doubtful) or get nibbles (likely). The four adults had one of our longest uninterrupted opportunities for conversation since 2006. Glory, glory, hallelujah! The kids played independently for longer than two minutes! By far, my favorite part of the night was getting that special time to cheer and chat with friends after far too long of segmented gatherings. It felt like the beginning of a new era. I couldn’t be happier about that.
So, back to the Broncos. I have a still tender spot for my Colorado family and friends. I hope that the blazing sunshine, snow and vivid blue skies help you along. I’m thankful you don’t have Vitamin D deficiencies or serious afflictions of SAD requiring constant caffeine IV drips, which would make this loss even more painful. Maybe this bread will bring you some comfort? Upscale it to a consolation cake if that helps to better nurse the wounds. If you need to rub anything in to Seahawks’ fans, skiing some powder while it doesn’t rain on you would suffice. But this recipe also includes rubbing butter between your fingers. You could pretend it’s a Seahawk.
On the other hand, I’m equally thrilled for my Seattle friends. The enthusiastic showing of 12th man flags, signs and jerseys made this city shine with spirit. Shooting fireworks from the Space Needle with each score was also pretty freakin’ cool! I’m pleased sports fans have something to celebrate after years of let-downs, and food fans had excellent reason to cook and bake all morning. It worked out for all of us.
Thus, either in celebration or consolation, I offer up my favorite carrot bread recipe. This recipe was my first introduction to whole grains baking, courtesy of my fellow bandwagon friend. A few years ago we were lucky enough to live blocks away from each other. She excitedly called me once to see if she could bring me over a muffin because she was so pleased. (I miss being her neighbor.) The muffins made me swoon. Nicely crisp on the outside edges (thanks to turning the muffin on it’s side while it’s still cooling in the pan- see the picture below) and extremely moist on the inside (thanks to buttermilk and butter!). The whole grain flours bring an extra nut-like flour, a welcome layer of depth missing in all-purpose baked goods. The spices hint towards gingerbread or cinnamon pumpkin bread, but it’s allspice shining through without being overbearing. The carrot is a perfect sweet contrast. The streusel compliments in texture and gives you amazing little bites of buttery, crunchy goodness. I find it all very satisfying, like sitting by a fire in a cabin in the snowy woods. I would really like that with this bread. It has yet to happen, despite making this recipe at least once a month in the falls and winters since she gifted me with Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain for my birthday. I should remedy that.
I prefer to make the bread in a 9-inch round because I yield 12 slices as opposed to 8 muffins. The muffins are lovely, though. I’m just being economical. The bread is absolutely delicious by itself. Wonderful with morning coffee or as an afternoon snack with tea. Great as a sweet note at brunch, fabulous with ice cream for dessert. Yes, I like this bread. A lot.
If you want to keep this very simple and slightly healthier, leave the streusel off altogether. Alternately, dress this up as a fairly nutritious cake by leaving off the streusel and frosting it with lightly sweetened whipped cream cheese. (Beat 8oz room temperature cream cheese with a spoonful or two of powdered sugar, maple syrup or honey. Taste and add more as desired. Gently spread it on the completely cooled cake.)
The first time I made this recipe I was pretty intimidated by all the steps and processes. I had yet to work with pastry, so even the butter rubbing made me anxious. Butter rubbing sounds way too exciting to make me nervous anymore. Anyways, I’ve also since found a method that organized this to my suiting, so I’m sharing accordingly.
Carrot Bread from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour*
2 tablespoons oat bran
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt**
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup spelt flour*
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon kosher salt**
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrots (2-3 medium)
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk
1) Preheat oven to 350℉. Rub a 9-inch round baking pan with butter.
2) Grate the carrots.
3) Melt the 2oz butter for the wet batter mix so it can cool while you do the other steps.
4) Next, I like to set up two bowls side by side. I put a small bowl (for streusel) on the left and a big bowl (for dry batter mix) on the right. (Pictured above.) Since so many of the ingredients overlap, I measure out the ones used both places at this time. All the streusel ingredients (except the butter- keep it cold) go straight into their bowl, the dry mix ones go directly into the sifter. You can do these in succession, of course. I just find this easier since I don’t have to deal with the flour, bran, sugars and salt multiple times.
5) To make the dry mix for the batter, sift the ingredients into the large bowl. Dump all bits and pieces that didn’t make it through the sifter back into the bowl and gently stir them in. Stir the carrots into the dry ingredients so they all become coated with the flour mixture.
6) Make the wet mix for the batter by whisking together the melted (now cooled) butter, buttermilk, and egg until thoroughly combined. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
7) Make the streusel. Measure and mix together the flour, oat bran, sugars and salt. Add the cold butter pieces to the dry mixture by rubbing it between your fingers into the flour mixture until it feels coarse, like cornmeal. Do this as quickly as you can to help the butter stay cold and solid, which helps the streusel maintain integrity. (Alternately, try pulsing the butter into the flour mixture in a food processor. Just be careful not to overpulse. I would guess five to ten very short pulses would be plenty. Just observe your butter each time. Bigger butter pieces is better than smaller- ideally they should be about the size of a grain of rice. I haven’t done this, so please report back!)
8) Pour the batter evenly into the the pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the batter. Lightly press it into it.
9) Bake for 35-minutes (or until done!). Let it cool for at least five minutes after running a knife around the side of the pan to release the bread from the edges. Carefully turn it over, flip it back upright, and finish cooling it on a rack. You can also cool it in the pan if you don’t want to risk getting it out. (Or use a springform pan.)
I love this bread the same day, but I don’t complain when there’s leftovers. The texture isn’t as fabulous, but the flavor is still divine.
*Flours are pretty versatile here if you keep maintain the ratios of whole grain to all-purpose. I have successfully substituted spelt flour with whole wheat pastry flour. I like the spelt better, but I don’t always have it on hand. The pictured cake contains buckwheat flour. I really like buckwheat in this, too, but for your first time trying this recipe, I highly recommend spelt. It lets the carrots shine through more than buckwheat does. You can both see them in the bread and taste them better. The buckwheat makes this lean slightly more savory. So much so that you could eat it alongside lentil soup as a fabulous biscuit substitution. I would surmise that barley, graham and rye flour would all be delicious, too.
**If you can, use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. The size of crystals from other salts could make it too salty. If you use a different type of salt, cut it back by about 75% in both places.