Week Twenty: Southern Breads
This bread is extremely Southern. Not that I have fond memories of growing up eating it, or anything; but it’s a quick bread, and Southerners do love a good quick bread. Everybody’s momma, or grandmomma, or aunt, or neighbor has their favorite recipe, and will ususally pass it along with their name attached to the title. I know you’ve got a recipe somewhere called “Sister’s [something] bread”, or “Aunt Whoever’s [something else] muffins”. It’s also extremely Southern because its major flavoring is peanut butter.
Oh yes, the peanut is Southern. The USA is the world’s biggest exporter and consumer of peanut butter, and most of the peanuts grown in the US today come from Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. And I believe there may have been a gentleman in Alabama, at Tuskegee, by the name of George Washington Carver, who did somethin’ er’other with peanuts around the turn of the century. So what if the first US patent for peanut butter was held by a Canadian? Mr. Carver and his research saved the Southern post-Civil-War economy from the ravages of the boll weevil!
I had high hopes for this bread; I really did. I mean, it’s from Paula Deen, the Empress of Butter herself. If I can’t trust Paula Deen to give me a good recipe for peanut butter bread, then who can I trust? Nobody, apparently. The reviews I read of this recipe were lukewarm, at best; but since I trust Paula Deen, and don’t trust teh internets so much, I figured it was worth a shot, with some modifications.
Many complained of the dry texture, so I threw an egg into the mix. Others complained of its lackluster flavor, so I added vanilla and cinnamon, and substituted brown sugar for white. In hopes of achieving a more complex flavor and fluffier texture, I switched most of the milk for buttermilk, and added baking soda to compensate for the added acidity. All these changes, plus it’s from Paula friggin’ Deen! How could it go wrong?
I don’t know, but it sure did. I’m sure one of my problems was the use of organic peanut butter (you know, the kind with the massive oil slick on top when you open it), because that was all we had in the house, and I couldn’t be bothered to go buy another jar just for one recipe. Yes, it does make a difference. I’ve always heeded those warnings before, but they’re true: organic peanut butter makes a great sandwich, but makes lousy baked goods. They just come out all grainy, and not very good.
It’s not that this made a bad bread exactly, it was just highly un-exciting. Certainly not what I’d call unpalatable, but I’m not hanging on to this recipe. Maybe some extra sugar would help, and maybe a quarter-cup of oil and a quarter-cup of applesauce, I don’t know. Smash a banana or two into it, and add honey. It can’t hurt, and might be just what the doctor ordered.
So try this bread at your own risk. Maybe you know something I don’t, or maybe you’ve just got a severe jones for some peanut butter. In that case, however, I’d suggest that you’d be better off saving your time and effort, and just eating it straight from the jar. That’s what I wish I’d done.
Peanut Butter Bread
Adapted from Paula Deen
Makes 2 small loaves
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Butter or otherwise oil two 7 x 4 inch pans. Sift dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) together. In a large bowl, whisk egg until blended. Add sugar, and whisk until foamy and lighter in color, about 1 minute. Add peanut butter, and whisk until smooth. Slowly add buttermilk, whisking to incorporate before adding more. Add the milk and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients until just moistened (some lumps and flour streaks are okay).
2. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans. Smooth tops, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until browned and fully baked. Let cool briefly in pans before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully. Serve warm.
1. Be sure to use regular store-bought peanut butter, not organic, “natural”, or freshly-ground. Skippy is a preferred brand for baking.