Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The 21st Century Housewife's© Maple Syrup, Pecan and Apple Loaf

I invented this recipe, based on one of my own banana muffin recipes, to help use up some lovely cooking apples I bought at a farm shop near my home. I get so tempted by the delicious produce when I go there that I sometimes overbuy, and I am always looking for new and delicious ways of using up the bounty I bring home. Although for me this seems the perfect recipe for Autumn, it could easily be made all year round as the variety of cooking apple you use really does not matter. It smells delicious when it is baking, perfuming the kitchen with a warm nutmeggy air.

Baked in a loaf pan, it is a cross between a bread and a cake. The use of a small amount of maple syrup means that although it is slightly sweet, its mellow flavour allows it to also be served as a savoury bread – particularly if you omit the dusting of demerera sugar and cinnamon I sometimes put on top. The slightly acidic nature of the buttermilk also adds to its savoury edge. It is delicious for breakfast, spread thickly with butter or as a tea bread. I also like to serve it with a cheese board as it is absolutely scrumptious with just about any cheese – particularly cheddar and also, somewhat surprisingly, Brie! I would definitely omit the sugary topping if you plan to serve it with cheese though.

It is best baked the day before and allowed to rest before serving. Simply wrap it tightly in foil once it is cooled to keep it moist. It does taste lovely warm from the oven, but attempts to slice it while it is still warm usually result in a crumbly mess, so I do try to restrain myself and save it till the next day!

50 grams butter, melted and allowed to cool slightly
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
250 ml buttermilk
175 grams plain (all purpose) flour
175 grams whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and grated
(wait until the last minute to do this so that the apples do not brown)
75 grams of pecans, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon demerera sugar + 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed together (optional)

Prepare a loaf tin by buttering and flouring it, or line with greaseproof paper or a liner. Preheat the oven to 175℃ or 350℉.

Whisk the butter, maple syrup, egg and buttermilk together in a large jug. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, salt, bicarbonate of soda and nutmeg. Peel, core and grate the apples into the flour mixture and blend together. Add the nuts and stir in. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and fold together gently until well mixed.

Put the mixture in the prepared loaf pan, and if using, sprinkle the Demerera sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top.

Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes until the top is slightly golden and a piece of dried spaghetti stuck into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Take the loaf out of the oven and allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing it and cooling completely on a wire rack. The loaf will keep, well wrapped in foil in a cool place, for two to three days.