Well thank goodness we have received 15 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours--I was really beginning to think that spring was going to come early, after this past week of puddles and 40-degree days. I have decided that all the snow melted last week just so there would be ample room for this next delightful bunch of it. And to tease us all, of course.
True, I know you're thinking "wow, how naive are you, living in Minnesota and thinking that spring would come to stay in the middle of February," yes, yes, I know, but it's hard to avoid getting excited for spring when the weather gets nice...and when the winter has been as ridiculous as this one. Apparently this is the 2nd-snowiest winter on record--and the snowiest since 1891. And apparently after this last snowstorm's 17-ish inches, we're 3 inches away from surpassing even that winter, when they had 76" of snow (for the whole winter).
I'd say I'm pretty confident that we'll see 3 more inches before the snow is really done for good--which will be perfect, because one of my life goals was to live through the snowiest winter in Minnesota history. At least it's looking like I'm going to live to tell abut it (fingers crossed). I guess as long as I don't take too many risks in the next month, it's looking like I will get out alive. Also, if you believe that I have wished for this for the past 22 years, you fail at interpretation of sarcasm.
At least we got a snow day out of the deal, and snow days, as it turns out, are good for doing many things--though you can't leave the house, of course. For example, I learned some valuable life skills because of this storm: how to play cribbage, kitty litter works great for getting traction on ice, and firelogs work much better for starting fires than real wood. Spoon dared me to jump off the balcony into the snow, as well. I refused.
I did, however, get to spend some time baking--an imperative for a snow day. I had a giant sweet potato in the fridge that I had roasted earlier this week, and I thought I could work that in to some kind of delicious baked thing, so it became my blank canvas to try to do something creative with. I had also been doing some cooking with garam masala recently, so that was on my mind, and became the second half of my inspiration for my snow-day baking. Garam masala is a sweet, spicy Indian spice blend that lends a complex flavor, with notes of curry, cardamom, anise, and cinnamon--it's delicious. I've also found that it really goes incredibly well with the sweetness of roasted sweet potato, or any kind of winter squash, really. So thought process: how about making bread with my sweet potato....and spicing it with garam masala? Mmmm, yes please. It turned out to be a good idea. You should try it.
I've written enough already, so here's that recipe, some pictures to get you hungry, and that video, in case you haven't heard of Mumford and Sons, because we think you should know about them. Talent + strings + passion = great music. These guys love what they do, and that's what makes it so sweet. Hope you like it.
Indian-spiced Sweet Potato Bread
1/4 cup butter, plus more for the pan
1/4 cup coconut oil (or just use more butter here if you like)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon garam masala (or some combination of spices--if you don't have garam masala, be creative!)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup well-pureed roasted sweet potato or winter squash (butternut squash, pumpkin, etc..)
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (for topping)
Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat until it's brown and gives off a deliciously nutty aroma. This can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. You want the butter solids nicely toasted, but not scorched--make sure to keep an eye on it! Take off the heat and stir in the coconut oil, if using. Set aside and allow to cool while you put everything else together.
Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the top 1/3. Butter a 1-lb loaf pan (roughly 9x5x3-inches).
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, garam masala, ginger, and sea salt into a large bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl whisk the sugar, eggs, squash, and milk. Whisk in the still melted butter and coconut, but make sure it isn't hot to the touch. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in 2/3 of the walnuts, and try not to eat all the batter, as it will taste very much like caramel (I may or may not have had trouble with this step).
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and remaining almonds, and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the edges have browned and the center of the cake is well set. Do your best to avoid over-baking, part of the charm of this cake is its moistness, when it is baked properly. Use a cake tester if necessary. Let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then take it out and put it on a rack to cool completely. This would be a good time to cut off the end and sample your creation, and I certainly would not discourage eating it slathered with butter. Just saying. Good job being creative, and enjoy!