Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bread and Tea and Disorganization

I must admit that I'm not the most organized person in the world. I wish I had more systems and cubbies and that everything fit nicely into cabinets and closets. Unfortunately, my shoes are always strewed on the closet shelves (or in the floor) and my kitchen pots and pans never quite fit in the cabinets with any order or aesthetic appeal. The same problems goes for my recipes. While I love to cook and try new things, my recipes are usually stacked on some high shelf or lost in whatever cookbook I had out at the time I clipped a new recipe from some magazine.

I may be addicted to clipping recipes from Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living magazines. I have piles upon piles of flimsy pages, and at the moment I fear that some may even be trapped under the bed. Transcribing them onto recipe cards is the ultimate boring activity, and although I'm sure it's more productive than watching T.V. or surfing the Internet, I rarely feel inspired to write recipes until my hand cramps. During a house cleaning frenzy, I recently mislaid a stack of pages that I wanted to try, and more than a month after their disappearance, they emerged on the top shelf of my cookbook cabinet. I had probably looked at them at least a dozen times, never completely sure what they were and too short to see the titles. My prodigal recipes have been cheerfully welcomed back, however; and I've successfully prepared several dishes that had been under consideration for four or more years -- yes, I am a recipe addict, but I have to have people to cook for before I enjoy myself in the kitchen.

Without further ado, I present my take on Better Homes and Gardens' "Lemon-Walnut Tea Bread":

Lemon-Pecan Tea Bread
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbls. grated lemon rind
2 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1) Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 9x5 loaf pan; set aside.
2) Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
3) Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in pecans, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Pour batter into loaf pan.
4) Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes.
5) Cool in pan on wire rack 10-15 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.

Lemon Glaze (optional)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
lemon juice

1) Combine powdered sugar with juice until mixture reaches desired glaze consistency.
2) Pour gently over the top of cooled cake
3) If mixture puddles at bottom of cake plate, carefully scrape up excess and drizzle back over cake and sides.

The original recipe calls for walnuts, as the title suggests, but I usually have pecans on hand in my pantry, and I prefer their flavor. You may use walnuts if you desire.

Also, the glaze is purely the idea of Mr. Bookworm and me. It wasn't mentioned in the recipe, but we wanted to make the bread more cake-like. It can be adjusted to taste.
To go with our tea bread, Mr. Bookworm tried his hand at making authentic Iraqi chai (using American-bought tea leaves, as sadly,there isn't a wide market for ethnic teas in the rural south). It made a beautiful presentation in our Middle Eastern chai set, and it was a delicious companion to the bread. I wish I had a better picture of the chai set with our boring teapot and the bread, but alas, Mr. Bookworm borrowed the camera and focused on the individual setting instead. It makes a gorgeous presentation with it's honey brown and gold tones. Next time, however, I'll arrange the photo op, and perhaps after some more practice he will share his chai recipe with me.

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