June 30, 2009

Strawberry Chamomile Quick Bread

And as I looked a quickening gust
Of wind blew up to me and thrust
Into my face a miracle
Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,--
I know not how such things can be!--
I breathed my soul back into me.

--from "Renascence" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

As some of you know, I am a sucker for floral and herbal infusion. Adding a base of lavender or a hue of thyme to a regular bread, jelly, or creme brulee can turn the everyday into a knee-trembling experience. Even before the dessert reaches your lips, your nose informs you that a new jewel awaits. Each time I pass a wildflower, or notice that my neighbor's violets have suddenly blossomed overnight, I can't help but wonder: how would that flower taste in my next batch of _______?

This obsession, I fear, might soon turn me into the village outcast. For example, each time I overhear people speaking about their flower gardens, I always jump into the conversation and ask, a little too overzealously, "Are any of your flowers edible?" Usually they don't know how to respond to this question, and the conversation awkwardly fizzles. I fear that soon everyone around town will be bordering their flower gardens with chicken wire to ward off any nightly raids from the freaky flower-eating girl.

Some bloggers out there, like Conscious Kitchen and Tartelette, to name a few, would understand this urgency to discover new possibilities in the art of herbal and floral infusion. If you visit their pages, you will will discover them adding notes of various flowers, herbs, barks, and leaves to their delicious chocolates and baked goods. Here is a brief list of ingredients they have recently infused into sweet treats: lemongrass, rose, black tea, pink peppercorn, cucumber-scented green tea, violet, saffron and cherry blossom. These blogs obviously give me much to live up to, and in the past year they've inspired me to take my infusion skillz to some pretty fabulous places.

(However, some of these places were more nasty than fabulous. Like the sugar cookies I tried to infuse with yerba mate' tea a few months ago. Blech! Do NOT try that combination in your own kitchen unless you hate everything that is pure and delicious in this world. And please do not tell any gauchos what I did with their sacred tea.)
Don't let this pretty dough fool you.
Sure, the Moody Kitchen has endured some lackluster--and sometimes downright sh***y--experiments throughout my research in the Infusion Arts. After one of these experiments, my cat even threatened to move out of the house. His suitcase was packed and everything.

Despite the occasional culinary failure (and near woman-cat divorce), some combinations have managed to win over my heart and tongue. A few months back, I stumbled upon one such dessert: strawberry chamomile quick bread. Since I had never baked with chamomile before, I thought it would be fun to test out its potential. I mean, how can one go wrong with strawberries or chamomile? I would eat a ball of mud were it stuffed with these two ingredients.

Chamomile buds infusing in coconut milk

And, let me tell you: this combination was as pretty-on-the-tongue as it gets. After I made this bread, my cat was finally able to unpack his suitcase full of berets, cigars and miniature wigs. It's that delicious.

How have you been eating your flowers this summer? Let me know!

Strawberry Chamomile Quick Bread
(makes 1 loaf)

2 cups flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbs. dry chamomile buds
2 tsp. vinegar
1.5-2 cups mashed strawberries
1/3 cup olive oil

1. Bring the coconut milk to a boil, and then remove from heat. Stir in the chamomile buds, and allow mixture to sit and infuse for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or more for a stronger flavor).

2. Once flowers have infused into the milk, strain buds and pour milk into a small bowl. Add vinegar to the milk, and stir. Allow vinegar-milk mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk your dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk the sugar with the olive oil until well blended. Then add the remaining wet ingredients, and stir. Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, and stir JUST until combined. About 10 stirs oughtta do 'er. Batter should be lumpy. Pour batter into a well-greased bread pan, and bake for 45-50 minutes at 350.


Hadley Gets Crafty said...

Yay! You're back! Your bread looks so super amazing!

cormac norwich said...

Bravo! Your return and culinary guidance is a humbling experience! You need to cook a romantic meal for Dawn and I sometime! We really like sausage. We really do.

Jess said...

I was beginning to wonder what had become of you! So glad to hear that you and Mr. Cat managed to smooth things over, and that your newest infusion experiment was a success.

gemma said...

Wow, what a lovely and unique recipe!