It strikes me that my last few posts have all been baked goods, which is kind of funny because I generally think of myself as a "cook" rather than a baker. And I haven't actually been baking more than usual; it's just that the meals I've been making have been tried and true standbys and/or nothing particularly blog-worthy. So anyway, here I am with another bread, and a really good one at that. It came about because I wanted to play around with the culinary lavender I scored at one of my all-time favorite shopping destinations, Cardullo's. Fresh blueberries seemed like a natural pairing, and together they produced a loaf with a distinctly desserty vibe that is perfect with afternoon tea, yet is healthy enough to eat for breakfast. Most importantly, it is delicious, with the additional appeal that the flavors of lavender, blueberries, and fresh lemon provide a welcome whiff of summer in the bleak midwinter. (NB that the topping is completely optional; it ups the sweet factor a little, but the bread would be every bit as good without it!)
Lavender Blueberry Tea Bread
~ 1 cup nondairy milk (I used almond)
~ 1 tbsp. culinary lavender, crushed or chopped to a powder
~ 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1/4 cup applesauce
~ Juice of one lemon
~ 1 tsp. each: vanilla extract, lemon extract
~ 2.5 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
~ 1 tsp. each: baking powder, baking soda
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, cinnamon, ground ginger
~ 1/4 tsp. mace or nutmeg
~ 1 cup fresh blueberries
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 2 tbsp. brown sugar
~ Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit and coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.
~ Combine the milk and the crushed lavender and heat to nearly boiling (I did this in the microwave). Cover and set aside to steep for at least 15-20 minutes.
~ In a bowl, combine the sugar, oil, applesauce, lemon juice, and the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the lavender/milk mixture and mix thoroughly.
~ In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and mace. Add the blueberries and toss to coat (this gives them some "grip" in the batter so they don't sink to the bottom).
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture; combine thoroughly and transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan.
~ In a small bowl, combine the Earth Balance, flour, and brown sugar and distribute on top of the batter.
~ Bake in the middle of the oven at 350° for 50 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for about ten minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Wait another 15-20 minutes before slicing.