Pamplona Spain is famous for it’s running of the bulls each spring, an event for the brave and fleet of foot. For those of us less swift and more laid back, Brattleboro Vermont offers …
Strolling of the Heifers. A heifer is a female cow who has not had a calf yet, and Brattleboro offers a weekend long festival dedicated to these sweet, gentle brown-eyed critters. Strolling is definitely more in tune with our New England temperament but this festival is by no means dull or snoozeworthy.
The festival features live music, artisans and craftsmen, farm art, films, the heifer parade itself, and of course lots of great food. You can learn more about the festival here. As you can imagine dairy products are king of the hill and top of the line, but baked goods also play a big role.
This year King Arthur Flour helped sponsor The Great Vermont Pro-Am Bread Baking Contest at the festival. The participants were from all throughout the area, with a variety of baking backgrounds.
The rules called for all flours to be King Arthur brand. To the extent possible, contestants were asked to use fellow sponsors’ Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, locally sourced cheese, maple syrup, and dairy products, along with other local and organic ingredients.
I was lucky enough to be a judge for the competition in the quick bread category. Despite the sweltering heat the entrants’ table was covered end to end with breads of every shape and size and my fellow judges and I soon got to work tasting, tasting and tasting once again.
I still remember seeing Jean Sarnie’s grand prize winner Dante’s Blueberry Bread for the first time. Golden brown, with a smattering of tiny blueberries evident even from where I sat, 4 feet away. We were handed copies of the recipe at the same time and my heart gave a little leap when I saw one of my favorite ingredients, Fiori di Sicilia on the list. My fellow judges had never tasted the fiori before and all I said was “You’re in for a treat” and sat back to watch their reactions. Long story short we were all enchanted and Jean’s wonderful bread came out with a well deserved win.
So, stroll on over to the kitchen and let’s make Dante’s Blueberry Bread.
Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the butter.
I like to break up the butter with my fingers a bit first before using the mixer. I feel a little more in control that way so that the chunks of butter are more even in size.
Then, use the paddle attachment to incorporate the butter and aerate the dry ingredients.
Whisk the egg, sour cream, milk and honey in a bowl or liquid measure until well blended.
Why do we do this anyway? Why can’t we just dump the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix, mix, mix? Well honey, it’s all about the gluten.
You know gluten is the elastic structure that holds baked goods together, and it’s formed when wheat flour meets water. The more gluten is agitated, the tougher it gets. So, if you were to dump your egg and other liquids into the dry ingredients, it would take quite a bit of mixing to get everything incorporated, especially those tricky eggs that don’t always want to blend in. You’d be over-working the batter, thus over-working the gluten, and you’d end up with a tough, rubbery texture to your cake.
So, do take the extra few minutes to blend the wet ingredients together first. Your quick bread will thank you for it.
Add the Fiori di Sicilia to the liquid ingredients. For those of you who love fiori, this recipe packs a big punch of fiori flavor. For those of you who haven’t used it before or like just a hint of fiori, you may want to start with half of the amount. I used the full amount each time, and loved it!
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and blend well but do not over beat. You’ll be folding in the blueberries next, so don’t worry if some little bits of liquid or flour remain.
Fold the blueberries in by hand until they are well distributed and the batter is fairly smooth. We like fresh blueberries, but frozen will work just fine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. If the bread is browning too fast, lightly tent with foil.
When the bread is done, cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Our 12” x 4” x 2 1/2” tea loaf pan holds this bread beautifully as well, and serve slightly smaller slices, each about the size of a playing card. You can decide how many “cards” of bread to deal. Hit me with a full deck, please!
P.S. Bet you’re dyin’ to know who Dante is, right? Well, here’s Dante, Jean’s black cat, all ready to bake.
Please bake, rate and review our recipe for Dante’s Blueberry Bread.