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Homework #8 – Pear and Cinnamon Cake with Meringue

I love Pears! They bake so well. They don’t fight for attention in a cake, they pair so well with chocolate…well, I can go on and on. In Mumbai I find them all year round so that makes it an important fruit for bakers to work with. Try this recipe it won’t disappoint.

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Pear and Cinnamon Cake with Meringue
Recipe type: Bake
Cuisine: Cake
 
Ingredients
  • 60 gms butter, softened
  • 60 gms sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 60 gms plain flour
  • 2 pears, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • For Meringue:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 100 gms sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees.
  2. In a bowl whisk together butter and sugar well, add vanilla and the lemon rind.
  3. Add the egg and beat it using a hand blender until light and fluffy.
  4. Fold in the flour and the cinnamon. make sure you sift them (flour and cinnamon) together so that its free of any un-ground cinnamon.
  5. Pour the batter into a round cake tin (20 cm) lined with parchment paper.
  6. Put the pear slices down into the batter
  7. Bake this for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees
  8. Bring this out and let it cool just a bit. Now work on the meringue
  9. Using your kitchen aid beat the egg whites stiff and add the sugar a little at a time.
  10. Add the meringue on top of the baked cake.
  11. Bake the cake in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius until light golden for about 15 minutes.
  12. This cake looks and tastes so overwhelmingly warm and delicious. It doesn’t need anything to pair with it.

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Pure and Pristine New Zealand

Oh I’m the luckiest! My brother and my brother-in-law both live in New Zealand. It’s where I take my family vacations. Can u beat that????

In all the years that I have travelled extensively across the country – both the North and the South Island – every trip has been special. The first time I went there my daughter who was a year and half started to talk in full sentences just out of the blue; I think she was inspired. The second time we went I discovered the south Islands and the spectacular Queenstown and the unbelievable Milford sound. That cruise is etched in my memory for ever. New Zealand is as pristine and as pure as anything can get.

And where do I begin to talk about the fantastic produce that the country has. The meats are spectacular as are the summer fruits. There was this one meal at The Hunting Lodge – this lovely restaurant in Auckland – that I can never forget; I had the most delicious meats in a setting that was so unforgettable.

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But, let me talk about my recent trip there last year. My brother, Dev Malik, who is one of the best chefs I’ve known (yeah, he was a part of the team that started Olive in Mumbai and then Delhi before he left for greener pastures, literally) made this trip a gastronomic delight! And what more, I got a chance to peep into his kitchen and learn some tricks of the trade. I always have had a lot to learn from him but what I take away most is his passion for food and all things good. I think he talks to his chicken and fish, I think he has a thing going with stuff in the kitchen. When u love food you can make food that others can love too. And so this trip was all about cooking together and drinking together and yeah, baking together.

My brother and chef Dev Malik

My brother and chef Dev Malik

We went up Taupo to bungee jump and then air dive and see the glow worms in caves and of course, ate as we went along.

Everywhere I went I ate a carrot cake and ice-cream and the best ice-cream I’ve ever eaten in all my life was at the The Tannery Café And Mt Atkinson Coffee; the brand is called Kohu Road. I promise you it’s really the best in NZ. And yeah, they do have some awesome coffee to go as well.

Carrot Cake in New Zealand

Carrot Cake in New Zealand

The Tannery Café And Mt Atkinson Coffee, New Zealand

The Tannery Café And Mt Atkinson Coffee, New Zealand

I discovered so many quaint cafes and we ate every where we got a chance; simple, slow and good food. Some of the best bread I came across was at Olaf’s Café – simple non fussy things on the menu and everything baked right there in front of you. If you get there around lunch hour you have to be really lucky to get a table.

Olaf's Cafe, New Zealand

Olaf’s Cafe, New Zealand

Discovering Little and Friday Cafe was yet another highlight of my trip. You must visit whenever you are next in Auckland. Check them out here http://www.littleandfriday.com. I bought their book of some fabulous bakes and have been enjoying their stuff ever since.

Another trip to NZ is brewing soon, I have the perfect excuse in mind!

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Homework #7 – Fennel and Orange Mini Cakes

It started with me finding fresh fennel at the market I go to, to shop for vegetables and fresh herbs. I made some rosemary and fennel chicken and the aroma filled up the house leaving everyone pretty happy. This made me want to use fennel in my bakes so there I was trying to make my baking studio smell of fennel. I searched around and came across this recipe, tweaked it just a bit and here it goes. The recipe called for dried fennel seeds so I stuck to that, add as much as you want for flavour. Gods were by my side and I had some fantastic organic aniseed extract which I also added to the mini cakes. It’s gluten free, butter free and if u skip the icing (please don’t) it’s sugar free too. Enjoy!

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Fennel and Orange Mini Cakes
Recipe type: Bake
Cuisine: Cake
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups almond flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1½ tbsp fennel seeds
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup whole milk yogurt
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Juice from one large orange
  • Zest from one orange
  • For the orange glaze
  • zest from one orange
  • Juice from one orange
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Small splash of milk (probably a tsp)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
  2. Butter/flour a mini bundt pan or any fun molds u may have. I found star shaped silicon molds lying around that I wanted to use.
  3. Toast the fennel seeds in the oven until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Crush with a mortar and pestle or leave whole.
  4. Combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda and toasted fennel seeds in a bowl.
  5. Mix the eggs, yogurt, honey, vanilla, orange juice and zest in a different bowl.
  6. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until incorporated but don't over-mix.
  7. Pour cake mixture into molds filling them ¾. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then let cakes cool on a wire rack before glazing.
  9. For the glaze
  10. Whisk together the ingredients for the glaze and spoon on top of the cakes, letting the glaze run down the edges of the cakes.
  11. Serve with herbal tea, black coffee, or your favorite herbal cocktail.

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Homework #6 – Classic Financiers

The financier (pronounced fee-nahn-see-AY) often shows up on petit four plates all over France. There are many stories about how the financier got its name so I’m sharing just one of many. The financier was created by a baker named Lasne, whose bakery on the Rue St. Denis was near the Bourse, the financial center of Paris. Presumably, the rich little cake was named for the rich financiers who frequented his bakery. The cake was baked in rectangular molds, the shape of gold bars. I like this story!

It’s deceptively simple, but perhaps like all things French, so damn refined! It’s a staple at almost all the fine pastry shops across France and now they seem to be pretty popular almost across all the fine pastry shops in the world. It seems like an ordinary little tea cake but that’s why I said it’s so deceptive; it’s so different from a cake.

For one it appears in all kinds of shapes – round in some places and rectangular in the others (see the molds I found on my trip to France).

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Second it’s so damn versatile – you can make them all so entirely different; drop pistachios in some, pecans or strawberries in others, dark chocolate nibs in some or mix and match in some…

Refined as it may seem it is relatively easy to make. A few tricks to keep in mind and you are home.

What you need is a whisk, a bowl, a pan and some French wine and some Jazz. The last two ingredients are not for the financier but for your soul.

A few steps make or break the cake. The first, browning the butter is what defines its flavour and adds depth to whatever the base nut you are using (almonds are the most traditional but hazelnuts or even cashews work just as well). You need to heat the butter over medium low heat until it begins to brown and smell nutty. Undercooking it is equally damaging for it will lack the necessary aroma.

The second trick is to mix the batter as little as possible. It should be stirred until just blended. If you stir too much, the gluten in the flour will get overworked and the cake will be tough.

The third trick they say is to rest the batter before baking. A few hours in the refrigerator and the flavours will harmonize. I have never been able to wait.

And one last bit; you have to eat them fresh. Now that’s not much of a problem, is it?

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Classic Financiers
Recipe type: Bake
Cuisine: Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
 
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel
Ingredients
  • 120 gms icing sugar
  • 40 gms flour
  • 60 gms almond meal
  • 100 gms egg whites (egg whites from about 3 large eggs)
  • 100 gms unsalted butter (browned)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Butter 12 financier molds or a mini-muffin tin. Refrigerate buttered tin.
  3. Sift together sugar, flour and almond meal into a medium bowl.
  4. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in previously beaten egg whites; whisk together by hand until ingredients have been combined.
  5. To brown the butter, melt butter in a sauce pan over low to medium heat until bits begin browning. Continue whisking slowly to prevent browned bits from settling. Strain melted butter through a cheesecloth.
  6. While still hot, slowly pour browned butter into batter, simultaneously whisking the batter until combined.
  7. Evenly distribute batter among molds or mini-muffin tin wells, leaving about ⅛" of space from the rim.
  8. Lower oven temperature to 170 degrees, and bake on the center rack for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
  9. Cool unmolded financiers on a wire rack.

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Homework #5 – Lime n Sugar Cookies

I wanted to make something really simple; I was having a friend over for tea who doesn’t like chocolate or cake and likes things citrusy. How complicated we are! So I peeped into my refrigerator and picked up the simplest and the loveliest citrusy ingredient of all – lime.

Got all the zest off using my microphone zester and rubbed into the sugar and had my entire studio smelling of fresh lime. Divine!

These ingredients combine together to give you melt-in-mouth cookies. So good for hot summer days and post a heavy seafood meal.

Lime zest

Lime zest

Lime n Sugar Cookies

Lime n Sugar Cookies

Lime n Sugar Cookies
Recipe type: Bake
Cuisine: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Recipe adapted from - Baking for friends
Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • 150 gms butter
  • 100 gms icing sugar + 50 gms for dusting
  • Zest of lime
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • Lemon extract (if you have a good organic one handy)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees
  2. In a mixing bowl add sugar and lime zest and gently rub them together till the whole world smells of lime.
  3. Add butter to that and mix with a hand mixer for about a minute.
  4. Add lime juice and extract and mix it in again with the blender.
  5. Add the flour and gently mix it in using a spatula.
  6. Gather the dough into a ball and cling wrap and refrigerate for about an hour .
  7. On your baking tray lined with a parchment paper, roll small cookie balls one inch apart and line them up (this measure should give you about 24 cookies)
  8. Bake the cookies for about 15-16 mins until the top of them are slightly brown.
  9. Dust some icing sugar generously even while still warm and then let them cool completely.
  10. Once cooled dust some more of the sugar on top.

 

Lime n Sugar Cookies

Lime n Sugar Cookies

 

The American Dream

I had resisted a trip to the States for the longest time. I’ll never be done with Europe; Paris and Barcelona actually. I need the art, the opera, the music, the walks into history and of course good food for it to be a place close to my heart (Italy comes a close number 3). However, you cannot fight the power of Mickey Mouse. I found myself in Orlando, Florida with my 12 year old most enthusiastic girl.

Disneyland

Disneyland

I loved Disney world! Magic Kingdom was every bit as enchanting as it is made out to be. I am glad I went. Needless to say I made the most of all the time there exploring patisseries and cafes in between spotting Alligators. Someone recommended Carlos the Cake Boss in Florida so I pretty much ate up everything that was there .The cookies were good but his Cannoli was outstanding! The carrot cake was pretty. On one evening walkabout at Disney Springs, I spotted Ghirardelli. I wish I could have resisted some of their scoops but I couldn’t. I am still trying to shed those extra kilos I gained that day.

Cannoli at Carlos, Florida

Cannoli at Carlos, Florida

Carrot Cake at Carlos, Florida

Carrot Cake at Carlos, Florida

After 5 days of all kinds of parks and roller coasters I headed to Miami. What’s not to love about South Beach? Just fabulous 3 days beach bumming!

I don’t want to talk about the many pancakes and waffle breakfasts. I shamelessly finished them all, those pancakes were just so good with bacon on the side.

But the best ice-cream on this trip was absolutely this gorgeous brand called Kilwins – I spotted a few around Florida but not anywhere else on the East Coast. The best toasted coconut I’ve ever had! Make sure you find them when you are visiting Florida.

Kilwins, Florida

Kilwins, Florida

Then there was New York. I can write a book, but then again so much has been said already. The food didn’t get me as much excited as the museums (MOMA), Central Park ,the theatre, Madison Square Garden (Yes, I saw Billy Joel Live!) and the NewYork CheeseCake!

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NewYork Cheesecake

MOMO Cafe, NewYork

MOMO Cafe, NewYork

When In NYC

Eat at

The River Cafe (Brooklyn) – It’s warm, relaxed and has spectacular views of the Brooklyn Harbour. It’s also expensive.
Eataly – For an ice-cream and to buy many-many things. Just hang around there.
Russ and Daughters – Eat anything. I had a classic smoked salmon bagel and a plate of herrings. It’s an outstanding cafe and possibly one of the top ten places to eat at in NYC .
Shake Shack – Well eat if you must, but there are a whole lot better burgers out there. Try Burger Joint.

And please, eat on the streets and do stop by at the many food trucks and eat your heart out.

Eataly, NewYork

Eataly, NewYork

Eataly, NewYork

Eataly, NewYork

By the end of 4 weeks when I found myself in Boston I was done with eating. I just spent time walking about the pretty places and shopping away at Pottery Barn, Williams and Sonoma and finally ended the trip with a Boston Cream Pie with friends who were now more like family.

Pottery Barn, Boston

Pottery Barn, Boston

Williams Sonama, Boston

Williams Sonama, Boston

Boston cream pie at The top of the Hub Boston

Boston cream pie at The top of the Hub Boston

Can Jubany

The connection with Catalonia grew stronger when I got super lucky when a friend invited me to join her for pastry training in a Michelin starred restaurant in Vic (pronounced as Bic). Vic is a small town near Girona, which is the heart of Catalonia. An hour away from the BCN city, its simple quaintness and proximity to some of the region’s smaller towns made it so very special. The 3 weeks at Nandu’s restaurant – Can Jubany – was an experience I will cherish for a long-long time. Nandu was kind to say the least. His chefs were amused to have us there but in their broken English and with some help from Google translator I got by. Nandu believes in details. I didn’t know much that happened in the hot kitchen but as far as the pastry section is concerned – every mint leaf on the dessert plate, every flower petal on the plate had to be fresh. Every plated dessert that went out had to be on the customer’s table in less than a minute of plating. The kitchen is a hard place; it’s everything you see on TV – abusive , abrasive , stressful (I made sure I learnt the abuses in Catalan so I would know when someone was hurling them my way). I was a trainee, translated to ‘piece of shit’. I plucked fresh mint leaves, grated the rind off 100s of lemons, picked out fresh eggs from the farm, always had a cleaning wipe in my hand and hell, I worked 15 hrs a day! And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Can Jubany in Vic, Catalonia

Can Jubany in Vic, Catalonia

Chef Nandy Jubany helping us with our staff lunch

Chef Nandy Jubany helping us with our staff lunch

Thank God for my time earlier at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, which made the Pastry Chef discover my possible talent and capability and I was moved-up from slave labour to what may be a commis chef level. I began to work on the Petit Fours and later plated desserts. And, things got better. I made friends, they spoke broken English and I broken Catalan and with all the help from the phone apps, we had conversations that I will cherish a lifetime. It was a glorious 3 weeks of learning and I don’t really care about the Michelin stars, but in my opinion Can Jubany is one of the finest restaurants in Catalonia. Please do visit.

Dessert at Can Jubany

Dessert at Can Jubany

Dessert at Can Jubany

Dessert at Can Jubany

The staff at Can Jubany ready to take their summer break

The staff at Can Jubany ready to take their summer break

My time and the few weekends in Vic got me eating at a few other places. Clearly, the world has to know that Catalonia and the Basque region (San Sebastion) has really the best food in the world. I had the pleasure of meeting one such chef – Chef Ignasi – at his restaurant Cal Ignasi. What an absolutely wonderful meal. His kitchen was so different from Nandu’s, but both masters in their own way. Then there was Sant Pau, a wonderful restaurant in Sant Pol de Mar, a town between Barcelona and Girona. In 2009 it was awarded three Michelin stars and three Campsa-Repsol suns. The restaurant is headed by chef Carme Ruscalleda. I had the tasting menu ‘Carnet de Ball’ where every dish was a piece of Art. A restaurant I’d definitely go back to.

Cal Ignasi, Catalonia

Cal Ignasi, Catalonia

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I tried calling El Celler de Can Roca; they were booked for the next 6 months. I guess the heavens insist that I just go back.

Homework #4 – Cranberries and Mixed Nut Scones

A scone can be described as a single serving cake or a quick bread. It’s a traditional English tea time treat; I like them for breakfast though. You can call it a kind of pastry since they are made with the same ingredients as short crust albeit with different proportions.

But really scones are so versatile. You can add your favourite ingredients to them. Most dried fruits pair well and so does chocolate. But, when I started figuring out the best way to make them I came across at least 15 different versions – add buttermilk, no butter milk, add egg, no egg, self raising flour, regular flour… it’s really endless. I tried a few variations myself and settled for this.

I didn’t have clotted cream at home so I just ate them up with butter – a generous dollop of it – and some jam.

Scones ready to go in the oven

Scones ready to go in the oven

Cranberries and Mixed Nut Scones
Recipe type: Bake
Cuisine: English
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 450 gms plain flour
  • 200 gms castor sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 175 gms chilled butter
  • 200 gms fresh cream
  • 150 gms mixed nuts
  • 100 gms cranberries
  • Lime zest
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Rub lime zest with sugar (don't forget this step, it makes all the difference)
  4. Rub in the butter in the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Work quickly with your fingertips, you don't want the butter to melt.
  5. Add mixed nuts and cranberries.
  6. Add cream and work the dough until it comes together. It's okay if it isn't very cohesive - just as long as it holds together. Add more cream if necessary
  7. Divide the dough into two. Gather to make a ball
  8. Roll out to a thickness of 2.5-3 cms. Using a pastry cutter, cut into rounds or into triangles – like cutting a pizza.
  9. Brush with milk wash or egg wash
  10. Bake for 45 mins until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
  11. Serve with clotted cream or butter and jam.

 

Scones

Scones

 

 

My Barcelona Diaries

Where do I begin? Yes, I love Paris but Barcelona was and will always be the closest to my heart. I didn’t know much about Barcelona, except that it was Spain. Till a self-respecting, mildly arrogant and terribly good looking Catalan explained the difference to me. And rightfully, I never went back to Spain again. But I went back time and again to Catalonia. Every time I flew across the European continent, I paused in Barcelona. It had everything I ever looked for in a city. Streets to walk on and gaze at architectural marvels ( by that I mean mostly Gaudi’s work), museums, the ocean, the cathedrals and food. Perhaps, Barcelona is the region that has produced the best food and certainly has produced some of the greatest culinary geniuses.

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Gracia Suburbs, Barcelona

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The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

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Barrigothic, Barcelona

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Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

My Barcelona connection just kept getting stronger with every visit. My Catalan friend helped me discover BCN and I saw it through the eyes of a local. I ate Catalan food at the Michelin starred restaurants as well as at the street side cafes. Mind you, I never ate Paella on La Ramblas; that’s a typical touristy thing to do in BCN. I discovered the by lanes of beautiful suburbs of Gracia, Eixample, the Gothic Quarters. I’ve never walked as much anywhere as I did here in this exasperatingly beautiful city. And no, I didn’t stop and waste my time at Zara or Mango. I never missed an opportunity to get to del Liceo, Barcelona’s opera house, or to have a tallat (a short cappuccino) at Palau de la Música.

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del Liceo, Barcelona

On weekends I ran away to Ripoll, Cantonigros, Rupit, Figueres where I saw the works of Salvador Dali – the mad genius!

Somehow, I never feel bad leaving Barcelona because I know I’ll be back soon.

My favourite places to eat at in Barcelona:

Petite Comite
Llamber
Bar Pinotxo
Tapas 24

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Petite Comite, Barcelona

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Petite Comite, Barcelona

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Cafè de l’Òpera, Barcelona

For Desserts:

Bubo – At the trendy El Born area, outstanding for its chocolates and desserts; there is something for everyone.
Hoffman – I hate to say it , but I’ve never had a better croissant ever, not even in Paris! The mascapone croissant made me weak in the knees. It’s every bit worth the hype. I would suggest you wash it down with the beautiful sumatra coffee from El Magnifico. Just divine!
Escriba – Arguably the best Barcelona has; the exploding cakes, chocolate walls and sugar jewellery look straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, and the hot chocolate is to die for.

 

Bubo, Barcelona

Bubo, Barcelona

Bubo, Barcelona

Bubo, Barcelona

Hoffman, Barcelona

Hoffman, Barcelona

Homework #3 – Apple Rosemary Buttermilk Bread

If you want something warm, not too sweet, and made from scratch this is the recipe. The classic combination of apple and rosemary marries in a buttermilk and olive oil batter lightly flavoured with a hint of warm spices. Don’t want a loaf? You can bake it in muffin tins for muffins or, dollop it in a hot pan coated with oil and make pancakes. This batter will work for all three. I highly suggest trying it as pancakes.

Apple Rosemary Buttermilk Bread

Apple Rosemary Buttermilk Bread

Apple Rosemary Buttermilk Bread
Recipe type: Bake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 Loaf
 
Ingredients
  • 125 gms all-purpose flour
  • 50 gms granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp finely minced fresh rosemary
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 125 gms buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 63 gms olive oil
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 115 gms diced apple (1 small honey crisp, peeled and cored)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 170 degrees
  2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the first six ingredients to thoroughly and evenly combine.
  3. In another mixing bowl combine buttermilk, egg, olive oil and vanilla extract and whisk them together lightly with a fork.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir gently to just combine so that there is no dry left. Don't t worry about lumps, and be careful to not over mix.
  5. Gently fold in the apples.
  6. Lightly grease your loaf pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
  7. Best served warm with a pat of good, lightly salted butter.