I like the smell of a New Year. I've said it before and I'll say it again. It smells of resolve, hope, starting over and optimism. Whatever the past year was, good, bad, indifferent, it's over. Clean the slate with the new year. Bold words you say, when we all know that only the very determined and disciplined take their new resolutions or rather, old resolutions with new resolve beyond the first fortnight of the New Year.
But, even then, I wish for all of us to read more books, less social media, exercise regularly, less procrastination, sleep well, laugh hard, travel to new places, open up to new experiences, get off the phone, let go of grudges, meet up more in person, eat healthy, live more simply and of course, every once in a while make time for some cake!
So, that's what I did last weekend. I baked this black pepper, dark chocolate and strawberry bread. It is minimally adapted from Samantha Seneviratne's book that explores baking with spices. In her hearfelt and evocative introduction, she writes on how in this book she explores recipes that use just enough sugar as needed and then amps up the flavour profile with spices that she's been introduced to through her Sri Lankan heritage.
In this cake, she uses black pepper and I must say I was intrigued. Her cake uses dried red currants, I went with fresh strawberries, reminiscent of these muffins I baked a long time ago. Straight out of the oven, I struggled to locate the pepper but once cooled down, it added this subtle, gentle hum to the background. Not overpowering at all but did its part in balancing the sweetness quotient of this cake, something that is much appreciated in this month. I used demerara sugar which accounts for the darker hue of the crumb of my cake but you can use regular sugar. And if you are baking this for kids, I recommend leaving out the black pepper.
If you've read this blog for some time, you know how much I adore cakes like these. Not overly sweet, fragrant, beautifully moist and tender, with the fruit in season and a simple twist that keeps things interesting. I think you'll enjoy it as much as we did!
Happy 2018 everybody! May it be all you desire and yet surprise you in only the best way possible!
Black Pepper, Dark Chocolate and Strawberry Bread
Recipe courtesy : Minimally adapted from Samantha Seneviratne's 'The New Sugar & Spice'
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
- 1.5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used demerara sugar)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup yoghurt, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
- About 1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
- Sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C/ 350 deg F. Butter and flour a 4.5 by 8.5-inch loaf pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pepper, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on a medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions, and the vanilla.
- Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just barely combined.
- Add the yoghurt and the milk and beat briefly, then add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined.
- Keep aside about 1 tablespoon each of the chopped strawberries and chocolate for the topping.
- Fold in the remaining strawberries and chocolate into the batter.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Sprinkle the chopped strawberries and chocolate along with some sugar on top.
- Bake until golden brown and a thin skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs (not wet batter) attached, 50 to 60 minutes.
- Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then flip the loaf out of the pan, turn it right side up and let it cool completely and serve.