February 27, 2011

Baking your own fruit & nut bread

Last night I tried to bake fruit and nut bread. I used to do this regularly while living in Australia, and those always turned out very well. I haven't done any baking since Tim and I moved to Canada in late 2007. I didn't use a recipe back then, and last night I didn't either.

My return to baking is inspired by wanting to bring something homemade to a Girl's Night on Monday evening at the house of my enterprising friend Wanda Doyle, a talented painter of oil and acrylic canvases that are in high demand. Check her work here. Wanda and I met through VISUALS, a Squamish-based group of visual artists which I joined in early 2009.

One of my paintings (sold)
I did a lot of painting from 2005 until 2010, see some of my works here. Wanda was VISUALS' president at the time, and her energy and drive took the group to the next level. She immediately roped me in to join the board as the PR director, and I ended up coordinating two of the group's four art shows in 2009. Here, under the heading Visual Art. are some articles I wrote to help promote the artists and the group.

Wanda and I hit it off immediately, and she invited me on an art-related trip to Vancouver where we checked out galleries and shopped for some arts supplies. I also met Michiko Splinter, who I've written about before on this site, through this group. A talented and lifelong painter who only works in oils, Michiko shared her knowledge on hanging two of the art shows I coordinated. We found we had a lot to talk, and laugh, about as Michiko and I did a trip to a couple of local galleries.

When Wanda next suggested I join her for the day in Whistler where she was preparing her works for an art walk during the Olympics, I suggested Michiko might come along too. It was so much fun that those have since turned into regular  "girly art" trips. More recently, Polish-born weaver Gosia joined us, as did my sister Angelique when she visited me in November.

Writing and publishing have been taking all my energy and focus, and I have done very little to no painting. But my office still has two desks: one for writing, and a higher one for painting which is stocked with acrylic paints and other materials. I'd like to return to painting again soon, as I really miss it.

Back to the baking, I'd like to bring my bread to Monday's party. Wanda, who usually comes up with a suggestion for our girly art trips, also organized this Monday night for which she has invited 10 women and asked:

"While it will be mostly a mingle with appetizers potluck, I'd also like us each to take a few minutes to introduce ourselves to the group and share one of our passions or interests.  If possible, bring something to show or tell us a short story about it. Our second short exercise will be to share a goal you've set for this year. With so many brilliant women in the room, we may be able to offer some support if you need it!"

Now, to the bread: it looks stunning, and the consistency is beautiful too (even if I do say so myself): it could have more flavour though so I'll bake another one today and just add a whole lot more of everything, plus some honey.

The ingredients I used:

A Chilean Leyda 2009 Pinot Noir (for the cook, not the bread)

Robin Hood all purpose flour (about two cups)
Fleischmann's instant yeast (dissolve 1 package in a cup of warm water)
A spoon of margarine/butter
A spoon of Bad Girl Chocolate's Hazelnut-Chocolate spread
Almond slivers
A good sprinkling of port (Whiskers Blake Tawny)
1 egg
Ground ginger
A dash of milk

Mix well in a bowl. Then use olive oil to cover the bottom and sides of a glass oven dish, and stick it in the preheated oven. I used 350 degrees C. Leave it in there for a while: I didn't time it, just kept an eye on it and once it started to look somewhat done used a wood chopstick to test if the inside was ready (if nothing sticks to the chopstick, it should be done).

You can add walnuts, dates, apricots. When baking another one later today, I'll add a good dollop of honey as mentioned. And I may use the chocolate spread to glaze the top once it is finished. I may also use cinnamin instead of ginger, and keep you posted.

No comments: