21 March 2009

Tale of a Strawberry Gone Awry

In China, March comes in like a mango and goes out like a strawberry. No real metaphor for anything, other than the fact that my life seems to be dictated by food. Strawberries bring the promise of spring--tough little buggers braving Qingdao's temperamental weather like a band of brothers laid neatly in their flats on the sidewalks. While they appear hardy, these strawberries are much more delicate than their American brethren, to be eaten immediately, not baked in a pie, turned into jam, or left in the fridge for a few days. One touch and their flesh turns to mush.

But oh the smell when they tumble out of the plastic bag. That's spring.

I bought our first pint yesterday, hoping to make another quick bread as an easy way to use up fruit. I really should have taken more consideration with these first specimen. Browsing recipes on Martha Stewart and Epicurious left me with plenty that called for heavy cream or gelatin, neither of which are commonly available in China. Rather than go the shortcake or pie route, I found a Fresh Strawberry Bread recipe on Martha Stewart that seemed quick and didn't require any fancy ingrediants.

It did require me to cook the stawberries for about one minute. I should have known something was wrong when this...

Turned into this...

Another different characteristic of Chinese strawberries is the amount of liquid in them, making them delicate and difficult to cook with. American varieties stand up to heat much better, while these quickly disintegrated. Undaunted, I knew I would have to use them anyway.

Back to the bread batter (not dough, you'll find out why).

This is one of the times when I miss my gleaming ruby KitchenAid stand mixer. If a recipe calls for creaming butter, sugar, and eggs, I know my arm is in for a workout. I have gotten much better at whisking since moving to China and must be developing some sturdy shoulder muscles in my right arm. However, I will be thoroughly grateful to have my trusty sidekick back on the counter.

The recipe calls for adding the sifted dry ingredients to the wet alternating with 1/3 cup of water. Here I have soupy strawberries sitting on the counter and I go ahead with this water idea. I should have listened to my instincts and omitted the extra liquid. Before I added the strawberries, the batter looked acceptable, like a normal quick bread, but once the berries went in, I ended up with grey quick bread soup. (Chinese strawberries also lose their color quickly.) I could have made pancakes at this point. Instead, to try and salvage my disaster, I added an extra cup of flour and into the oven it went.

After the requisite hour, the bread looked almost normal.

One slice into it revealed what looked like uncooked purplish grey matter. C'est la vie. I have two slices in the toaster oven now, hoping they perk up a little to accompany my morning coffee.

UPDATE: Toasting the bread did not help, so the whole loaf went in the garbage. Bye-bye strawberries.

1 comment:

  1. Hannah said the bread looks good to her!!!!!!