Yeah, sure. I don't bake. Unless, as mentioned before in the short little annals of this blog, I'm feeling social anxiety.
So, dear Reader, what the hell do you get somebody for a birthday present that you don't know very well? Personally, I bake. Because it's a) (more or less) guaranteed to please (if it turns out okay. And if you don't include known allergens); b) it's inexpensive; and c) it takes time and energy, which, in my mind, is one of the better presents you can give someone.
So I brought this recipe to a recent shindig. I think it went over okay, once the birthday girl got over her confusion over getting a loaf of bread...hrm...
Beranbaum, Rose Levy. The Cake Bible. William Morrow & Company, Inc. New York: 1988
Bon Appetit Magazine, August 1991
Joy of Baking.com - recipe tweaked by Stephanie Jaworski
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (just nuke it 10 seconds or so)
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract (I bumped it up to 1 t. at least)
1 T. grated lemon zest
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. Cointreau, vanilla extract, or brandy (optional)
Preheat yer oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a non-stick oil spray) the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (9x5x3 inch, or 23x13x8 cm, for you Metricheads out there). Set aside. Don't let the cat lick it. EW.
I read in another recipe a recommendation to cut a piece of parchment or wax paper to fit the bottom of your loaf pan. I did that, but I didn't see that there was any real point to it. But if you feel like being uber-conscientious about getting the loaf out of the pan, you could try it. I found that tip here.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a little bowl, dump your blueberries and a couple of small handfuls of flour and gently toss the blueberries 'til they're coated with flour. This (supposedly) helps keep your blueberries from sinking to the bottom of your bread - thus avoiding the dreaded Blueberry Bottom, which is a deeply embarrassing personal problem. Just ask Violet Beauregarde.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, or with really good arm muscles, beat the butter until softened (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture a little handful at a time; between handfuls, add the milk a little at a time - you want to make sure that the flour's totally incorporated, but you don't want to OVERbeat, because then your bread will be tough. And then you'll have to cough up bail money and get it into rehab and pay for its psychotherapy and drive it to group work, and who wants that for anyone's bread, really.
Gently fold in the blueberries - use a plastic spatula or something. You don't want to squish the blueberries too much.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (or just slightly besmirched with blueberry guts, but not bready bits).
Meanwhile (back at the ranch), in a small saucepan, bring the 1/3 cup of sugar and hte 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and your little dash of something extra (if you choose to use Cointreau or almond or vanilla extract or whatever) to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaf all over with a toothpick or a leftover chopstick from Chinese take-out or some other pointy bit and then brush the top of the loaf with the hot lemon glaze. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 30 minutes and then remove from the pan to let cool completely on the wire rack.
As with the banana bread recipe I posted earlier, this recipe is very forgiving - you could add nuts, extra flavoring, etc. It takes about 20 minutes with the preparations, plus baking time, so you can have delicoius and not-very-good-for-you cakey-bread pretty quickly. And it makes you look like a jeen-u-wine bakerperson. Yay!