Paring knives, violent bananas and quick breads

Over the course of the past three weeks, we have lost all of our paring knives.  Three knives, one very new and very sharp, just...gone.  This confounds and amazes us; we've looked in all of the usual (and unusual) places inside of our relatively small kitchen.  We only have six drawers, three of which are occupied by dish towels and food wrapping accessories.  I suppose our dog walker could've run off with them.  Or perhaps Seamus has taken up vegetable chopping.

Despite the angst I feel about losing my knives, I somehow still have the will to go on.  After grocery shopping yesterday, Em opened the freezer and was immediately attacked by frozen bananas.  When we don't eat our bananas before they brown, I have developed the habit of throwing them into the freezer until I'm ready to make banana bread.  It appeared that I didn't have a choice at this point.  Ready or not, I whipped up a double batch of my mom's banana bread, which I wrote about once before, and made four mini-loaves and two regular-sized loaves.  Some are for work and the rest are...uh...for me.

I also spent the weekend flipping through a backlog of magazines on my end table and making a meal plan for the week.  I settled on a bunch of inspirational recipes from Cooking Light and Everyday Food, where I also stumbled upon a recipe for Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake.  One quick bread is never enough, right?  Grocery shopping didn't offer up a fantastic berry selection, but I remembered a bag of mixed berries I bought at Whole Foods a few months ago taking up room in the that I needed for my ice cream machine bowls and bananas, clearly.  I rinsed them and threw them into the microwave for a minute to thaw them a little, and processed a double batch of the recipe I found in Everyday Food.

The recipe is pretty delicious, fluffy, soft and not quite a pound cake...which is good and bad (less butter but LESS BUTTER?!  The swirl incorporates enough into the cake to provide a lovely perfume, and the bites of sweet, slightly chewy berry sauce are scrumptious.  I will definitely make this again.  The frozen berries worked really well and between the strawberries and cherries, provided a bump of natural sweetness to the delicately sweet cake.  Frozen berries, when you find them at the right places, are just as good as fresh (in my opinion, and depending on the task).  I made a double batch of this quick bread; you can find the recipe in the July/August issue of Everyday Food (on pg. 123).  Find my modified version after the jump.  Enjoy!

Mixed Berry Swirl Pound Cake
modified from Everyday Food, July/August 2010, pg. 123

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 bag frozen berries (about 2.5-3 cups, depending), thawed and quickly rinsed
2 1/2 cups sugar plus 4 tablespoons set to the side
3 cups all-purpose flour**
1 teaspoon coarse/kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter two 5-by-9 inch loaf pans (or 4 3-by-5 inch loaf pans).

In a food processor, puree berries and 4 tablespoons of sugar.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter and 2 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping sides of bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream until fully incorporated.

Transfer half of the batter into the loaf pans and dot with 3-4 tablespoons of berry puree.  Transfer the rest of the batter evenly onto the top of the berry puree and top again with 3-4 tablespoons of remaining berry puree***.  Using a skewer or thin blade knife, swirl batter and puree together.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of each loaf comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours for two regular loaf pans and about 1 hour for mini loaf pans.  Let breads rest for 30 minutes on a cooling rack in the pans before removing.  Wrap in foil or plastic wrap, store at room temperature and consume within three days.

** I think this recipe would also work well with a 50/50 ratio of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour.  It would be a hearty complement to the sweetness of the berries and the richness provided by the butter and sour cream.
*** There is a good likelihood that you'll have some leftover berry puree.  Do what I did and store it in the fridge for a week or so.  You can spread a thin layer on toast, put a tablespoon or two into Greek yogurt, or use it as an ice cream topping.  So yum.

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.