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Nettle Bread with Maple

I have a lot of stinging nettle in the yard. It used to vex me, giving me a rash when I was picking rhubarb, or irritating my ankles when I mowed the lawn. Then I found out you could eat it. It is one of the first harvestable greens in May, so now I look forward to picking it.

Colander of nettle
Fresh nettle. It’ll sting until it is steamed.

The bread I bake is gluten free, mildly sweet, with both honey and dark maple syrup. It is somewhat crumbly; if that annoys you, swap in some whole wheat flour for the spelt.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz butter
  • 1/3 cup dark maple syrup (“Grade A Dark Amber, ‘full rich taste'”)
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 room-temperature eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups stinging nettle leaves, washed.

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325

Place a steamer basket over a pot of water, bring to a boil. Add the nettle leaves and steam until wilted, 5-10 minutes, depending on the age of the leaves. Let them cool, then squeeze over the sink to remove as much water as possible (steaming kills the sting, so you won’t need gloves). Put the drained nettle on a cutting board and finely mince.

Melt the butter, syrup, and honey on the stove over medium heat until it bubbles. Stir to combine and let it cool for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the spelt flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the honey mixture and stir well.

Whip the eggs until frothy and lemon-yellow in color, either by hand or in a mixer with the whisk attachment. Add to the batter, along with the minced nettle. Stir everything gently until it is all combined. (This will be a loose, runny batter.)

A bowl of batter, showing the proper, runny consistency
A really loose batter.

Pour into an oiled loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Finished loaf, cooling.

I usually leave the loaf in the pan. If you want to remove it, wait until it is warm, then run a knife around the edges and carefully remove it with a spatula.

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Gluten Free Sweet Potato Pecan Tea Bread

This is a nice autumnal change from pumpkin spice… everything. If you want a vegan version, swap out the butter for coconut oil. The lack of gluten makes this crumblier than a typical tea bread, so be gentle when cutting it.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked sweet potato, mashed coarsely, approximately 8 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups gluten free flour (spelt flour, or King Arthur gluten free flour)
  • 2-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks) or equal amount coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut flakes (preferably unsweetened).

Cook, peel, and mash the sweet potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, soda, powder and salt.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. add the sugar and brown sugar, beat until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium, until well mixed. Add the sweet potato and vanilla and beat until just mixed. Gradually add the flour, beating on low until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, 60 – 80 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.

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Cheddar Herb Biscuits

I’ve been making biscuits for years, using them to top cobblers, making them to accompany breakfast. When I the herb garden is producing, I like to make these, they’re slightly showy (if a biscuit can be called showy) and I find a savory breakfast more appealing than a sugary sweet one. These are best served warm, but reheat well. They’ll keep for a few days, not that I’ve managed to keep them around for more than a day.

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (yellow looks better than white)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup fresh herbs, minced: Sage, thyme, chive, and parsley work best.
1-1/2 cups buttermilk (approximately)
Melted butter, for brushing

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. With your fingers, work in the butter until the mixture resembles cornmeal (alternatively, you can put all of the ingredients up through the butter in a food processor and pulse until combined). Add in the garlic powder, herbs, and cheese, toss lightly to combine with the butter/flour mixture. Add 1 cup of buttermilk and stir gently until a loose dough forms. If it is stiff, or there is still dry flour at the bottom of the bowl, add more buttermilk and gently stir until everything is taken up.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface press it into a rectangle 1/2″ thick. Fold the dough over on itself once and press it out again to 3/4″ thick. Cut the biscuits into your preferred shape. The quickest cuts are square, using a bench scraper. I usually make triangles by cutting the squares in half. A juice glass or biscuit cutter will give you round biscuits. Any scraps from cutting can be pressed together into more biscuits.

Set the biscuits on the baking sheet, brush the tops with melted butter and bake 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden and the bottoms brown. Cool for five minutes and serve.