Monday, May 4, 2009

Romancing the Bran: Orange Spice Quick Bread

Whenever I hear the word “bran” I think of Euell Gibbons. Gibbons was a wild foods enthusiast and television spokesman for Post Grape Nuts Cereal in the 70’s. As part of his ad pitch he’d earnestly ask, “Ever eat a pine tree?”. If you have tasted Grape Nuts then you know that pine tree doesn’t quite describe what the hard cereal nuggets taste like. Grape Nuts taste like they are supposed to improve regularity which isn't saying much for the flavor of bran.

Fast forward a few decades into the current green phase of our global economy. Consumers have diverse and tasty options when it comes to healthful eating and this extends beyond the universe of prepared foods. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to re-introduce you to wheat bran and show you how it can be magically transformed into a quick bread that will leave you scratching your head and asking; “Can something good for me taste great and smell good too?”

The answer is yes, but unprocessed bran requires intense flavor management when you are baking. The reason is its natural scent. Once you add water to unprocessed wheat bran, off- notes evolve that aren’t happy and bread-like (unlike what perfumer Olivia Giacobetti envisioned when she created En Passant for Editions de Parfumes Frédéric Malle or Jour de Fête for L’Artisan Parfumeur, each of which has a wheat note). Unprocessed wheat bran smells grainy and slightly horsy when dry. With the addition of water it smells like school paste mixed with fertile male secretions (not quite as erotic as Etat Libre d’Orange’s Sécrétions Magnifiques which traverses terrain that would make bran blush).

The trick in managing taste is balancing texture and flavor. In this case, off-notes of unprocessed bran are smoothed by Cinnamon, Allspice, Nutmeg, Mace, and Cloves. The addition of orange zest, vanilla, and orange blossom water provides a fragrant lilt that transforms the overall impression of what one thinks of a fiber-rich quick bread. What are you waiting for? Get into the kitchen and fill your house with the delicious aroma of Orange Spice Quick Bread. P.S: Many of the spices in this recipe, as well as the figs, are considered aphrodisiac.

Orange Spice Quick Bread
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: 2 loaves

· 2 cups unprocessed bran (aka “Miller’s Bran”)
· 1 cup boiling water
· 2 cups Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour
· 1 cup oat bran
· ¾ cup granulated organic sugar
· 2 tablespoons non-aluminum baking powder
· 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Penzys Apple Pie Spice
· ½ teaspoon ground allspice
· ¼ teaspoon salt
· 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
· zest of one medium-sized orange
· 1⅓ cups skim milk at room temperature
· ½ cup Grandma’s® Robust Molasses (extra dark, unsulphured)
· 4 egg whites at room temperature
· 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
· 2 tablespoons Penzys Double Strength Vanilla Extract
· 6 large dried golden California figs, chopped (6 ounces)

· Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
· Grease two 8½ x 4½ x 2 ¾-inch loaf pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
· In a medium-sized bowl mix boiling water with unprocessed bran and allow to stand for at least two minutes.
· In a large-sized bowl mix flour, oat bran, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt.
· In a medium-sized bowl mix milk, molasses, egg whites, grapeseed oil, orange blossom water, vanilla, and orange zest. Add chopped dried figs and incorporate.
· Add the unprocessed bran to the wet mixture and stir well.
· Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Combine wet ingredients with dry ones, gently folding until everything is mixed.
· Fill two loaf 8½ x 4½ x 2 ¾-inch pans and bake in the center oven rack for approximately 45-55 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).
· Allow to cool for ten minutes. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack for an hour.
· Wrap in foil and refrigerate.

Baking Notes:
To amp up the nutrition, use Smart Balance Lactose-Free Fat-Free Milk. The milk contains omega-3 and vitamin E.

Refrigerating dried figs before prepping them for baking ensures easy maneuvers with a knife.

Scent Notes:
Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle's En Passant by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti uses Wheat Absolute in the fragrance formula. White Lilac, Watery Notes, Orange Tree Leaves, Cucumber, and Wheat are the key notes. All perfumes in the Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle line are sold at Barney's.

L’Artisan Parfumeur's Jour de Fête, also by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, uses a Green Wheat note in the fragrance formula. Key notes are: Almond, Pink Laurel, Wheat, Orris, Bourbon Vanilla, and Cedarwood. L'Artisan Parfumeur fragrances are sold at select retail shops including Aedes de Venustas.

Painting of "Wheat Field with Sheaves" by Vincent Van Gogh.