Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Baking in My Spanish Kitchen

With more time on my hands, I've found myself baking quite a bit, and though I haven't yet tried my hand at any traditional Spanish treats, American cookies, cupcakes and baked goods are quite the delicacy in Spain.  This works out well for me because I can bake them and fill our apartment with the enticing smells, and then send them off with Luke to work or share them with guests so that we don't have trays of cookies filling our kitchen.

There's a large department type store here in Madrid called El Corte Ingles.  They have everything from furniture to electronics to groceries.  They're huge and all over the city. A couple of weeks ago, Luke and I were walking through a section of one of the stores called "The Gourmet Experience," which also happens to have a small section of American items. When I saw Libby's canned pumpkin gleaming brightly on the shelf, I knew I had to have some for the upcoming Fall season. Nothing makes you want to bake more than cooler temperatures, changing leaves and the promise of spicy sweetness lofting from the oven. 

However, I didn't even make it until October before breaking into one of my cans of pumpkin.  This morning I got the urge to bake pumpkin bread, and I pretty quickly gave into it. I started with this recipe but adapted it along the way to work with what I had in the kitchen.

As baking around here always begins, I first Googled "350 Fahrenheit to Celsius" so that I would know where to set my Celsius speaking oven. (For future reference: The answer is 176.667 degrees. One of these days I will memorize that.) Then I gathered my ingredients:

Flour, Sunflower Oil (in place of veg. oil), Pepitas, Baking soda, Sugar, Pumpkin, 2 egg whites, Salt, Vanilla extract, Cinnamon, Pumpkin pie spice, Ground cloves (substituted for nutmeg.)
Upon gathering everything that I would need, I realized that, dang-it, my pumpkin seeds were still in the shell.  Now if I'm being honest, I realized they didn't look like I had expected when I grabbed them at the store earlier this morning, but also if I'm being honest, it didn't dawn on me until I was ready to start baking why they looked different. Ummm, duh.  Instead of heading out on a search for shelled pumpkin seeds, I decided to try and de-shell them myself. 

That didn't work. I couldn't properly crack the shell without also cracking the seed, and I wanted full pretty seeds, not slivers. I'd already mixed the batter together, so I couldn't just save it for another day, and I really didn't want to leave the batter on the counter while I ran around in search of the perfect pumpkin seeds.  (Literally, I would have had to run around. We don't have a car.) I opted for the alternative, said, "oh well", and figured the bread would still be good without the pepitas.

However, as I was mixing together my wet ingredients, I decided why not make a few other adjustments since I already had to forgo the seeds. So into my mixture of wet ingredients, I added 2 tablespoons of Chia seeds. My mom makes banana bread with Chia seeds, and I always love that little addition. I threw them into the mix hoping that they'd help keep the bread from being too dry since there isn't much oil in the recipe. 

With my mind now on banana nut bread, I remembered the walnuts and hazelnuts left over from a recipe I made last week. I chopped them up and added a 1/2 cup of nuts to the mix as well, about 1/4 cup of each. I folded the dry ingredients into the rest, and then poured into my greased loaf pan. Unfortunately, I haven't seen, though I haven't really looked, cooking spray here yet, so my pan was greased with good ole butter.

With my pan all ready to pop into my oven heated exactly to 176.667 Celsius, I made the impulse decision to top my bread with old-fashioned oats. I used a little less than 1/4 cup (approximately 3 Tablespoons) and pushed them into the batter just a bit. 

After the addition of the oats, I set the timer for 50 minutes and started cleaning up the kitchen while enjoying the amazing smells of cinnamon and pumpkin seeping from the oven. Of course, your finger is always the best way to really get those bowls clean.

I just pulled the hot pan from the oven, and while I can tell you with certainty that it smells delicious, I'll have to update you later on the taste.  I figure it will be the perfect finish to dinner tonight because along with pumpkin season comes the season of soup, and I'm making this.

Now I'm off to relish the nice cool weather as I walk to the gym for Body Pump. Gotta work off that tasty finger lickin'!

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