Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Dessert Loaf Made with Honey

While recovering from a trip to the dentist this morning and waiting for the Novocaine to wear off, I was casting about for something new to make. Nothing was coming to mind. Sometimes when that happens, I get out my notebooks full of notes. I keep a notebook by my chair when I watch TV, so if something strikes my fancy I jot down notes on what it was, or what about it called my attention. Many times it is a certain part of a recipe that calls me. For example, Carla Hall was making little parfaits with lemon curd layered with a whipped cream with marshmallow fluff. The whipped cream with marshmallow fluff does not call me in the least, but the way she made the lemon curd called my attention. Sometimes it is a sauce, but not the entree. Or a frosting but not the cake. You may get the picture.

Some of these notes in my various notebooks are pretty old, but that doesn't mean they weren't of interest. It only means I hadn't gotten around to it just yet. So, I have no clue where or when I jotted down something about a Honey Loaf. I haven't done much with honey as one of the main sweeteners in a dessert or dessert loaf. I know that it can harden cookies. I made some cookies when I lived in Guatemala. The recipe was from my 1966 copy of The Joy of Cooking.The cookies came out so hard that the only way one could actually eat them without breaking a tooth (which was why I was at the dentist this morning) was to dip them in hot coffee long enough to soften for a bite. Maybe it was that experience that has kept me from exploring the use of honey any further.

Honey Pistachio Loaf with cardamom and orange flower water
Don't misunderstand. I love honey and I use it a lot. Just not in cakes, cookies or pies. I switched from granulated sugar in my Mom's Bread recipe and now use honey exclusively in that recipe. Honey on toast is marvelous. A little honey drizzled over pork chops while they are cooking is also wonderful. So, obviously, when I jotted down something about a Honey Loaf, I was hoping to branch out in the uses of honey. Well, today was that day. 

My Orange Flower Water
I looked at the ingredients I left when I jotted notes. I had nothing about eggs. I wondered about that. I looked online. I found some pretty complex (as in multitudes of ingredients) recipes, as well as some simpler. All of them used a lot of the warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice and such. I felt that with honey I would prefer to go in the direction of a more Greek or Middle Eastern flavor profile. Some recipes called for butter and some called for oil. I was going to opt for melted butter. As I was noting what i wanted to do with my version of a Honey Loaf, I considered. In many places now I have seen the use of olive oil even in cakes. I felt that possibly that might be the direction to go with this loaf. I had a particular "flavor" dancing around in my brain, and I was creating the recipe to hopefully reflect what I imagined.

Ultimately, my version turned out just exactly as I had "tasted" in my mind, so I am more than pleased. Not everything turns out so well on the first try, but this loaf is just excellent. I used cardamom as the only spice, plus some orange rind and orange flower water. If you do not have cardamom or orange flower water, just substitute with cinnamon and or any of the pie spices you choose. You may use cognac or other alcohol in place of the orange flower water, or just use vanilla, which always works. If you use salted pistachios to grind (I used a small Bullet Blender with the flat blade for dry ingredients), omit the salt. If you do not have pistachios, use whatever kind of ground nuts you prefer. I would like to try this with pine nuts some time. The main body of the recipe can stay the same. The loaf grew beautifully in the pan and was done in just over an hour. Here is what I did:

Honey Pistachio Loaf

Makes one 9 x 5-inch loaf
Fresh out of the pan

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 or 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup olive oil (I used extra virgin)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon orange flower water
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 cup ground pistachios

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (300 on Convection Bake). Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cardamom (or other spice), baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, combine the honey and olive oil and beat together. Add the eggs and beat the mixture at medium speed for at least 3 minutes. Add in the orange flower water and orange zest and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, mixing slowly to combine. Add the pistachios and mix gently until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the loaf to rest in the pan for at least 5 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool.  

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.