Follow the Pioneer Woman's advice: keep it simple
By Kara Kimbrough
Famous chefs and culinary experts never cease to inspire me...but not for the obvious reasons. Julia Child’s response to a reporter’s question asking if she ever ate fast food was golden. “I order fast food occasionally – everybody does when they’re on the road. A burger has protein, carbohydrates and vegetables.” Hearing Food Network star Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, state on national television this week that she was “over” cooking elaborate dishes was equally inspirational. Her words caused me to try a shortcut lemon treat that looked too easy to be good.
“When the pandemic was over, I thought I’d start cooking large meals again,” Drummond said as she stirred together three easy oven-baked pasta dishes on the Today Show. “It hasn’t happened.” Drummond’s recipes, which can be found on the show’s website, were short on ingredients and preparation time. As a result, I tried a recipe containing only four ingredients that appeared, from all photos, to be every bit as delicious as “Oprah’s Favorite Lemon Cake,” a recipe I’d made once and loved but shelved due to the long ingredient list.
I have a hard time distinguishing between cakes and quick breads made in small loaf pans simply because, once sliced, most are very similar in taste and appearance. The major difference? Most quick breads have less sugar and fat than cakes, but they can still be moist and delicious if the right ingredients are used.
Another plus is the fact that stirring everything together in one pan and baking it in a loaf pan instead of a heavy Bundt or other cake pan appears to take less time. I may think, “I don’t have time to bake a cake…but in mere minutes, I can bake a lemon loaf or my favorite cherry bread. Wrapped in clear cellophane and decorated with festive ribbon, it’s the perfect Christmas “happy” - or treat to enjoy with a cup of morning coffee any time of year.
Call them whatever you desire…small cakes, loaves or quick breads…if you’ve stopped baking because of the time involved in cake-baking, these recipes will have you back in (and better yet, out of) the kitchen in no time.
Crazy-Easy Lemon Loaf
3 extra-large eggs
11.25 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup self-rising flour
1 medium lemon, juiced (about 1/4 cup) and zest of lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons milk
Splash of lemon juice or flavoring (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper; leave paper hanging over long sides.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add in flour and mix until incorporated. Then, add in lemon zest and juice and whisk together until smooth. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely (about an hour) before adding the icing to the top.
To a medium bowl add all icing ingredients and whisk together until smooth. Top loaf evenly with the icing. Grate a little more lemon zest on top of icing for decoration.
Blueberry-Lemon Quick Bread
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Sugar for sprinkling
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 – x – 4 1/2-inch loaf pan and line with a sheet of parchment paper; leave paper hanging over the long sides of the pan.
Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers in a bowl until fragrant. Whisk in oil and vanilla for 30 seconds. Whisk in eggs, one at a time; then the lemon juice and sour cream. Sprinkle baking powder and salt into bowl, one at a time, vigorously whisking after each. Fold in the flour just until a few streaks remain. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Fold in 1 cup of the berries.
Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top, then arrange the remaining 1/2 cup of berries over the top of the loaf, pressing down gently. Lightly sprinkle with sugar and bake for 60-70 minutes, rotating at 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then lift the cake out by the parchment paper overhang and transfer to a rack. Let cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.
Christmas (Or Anytime) Cherry Bread
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup of buttermilk
¼ cup juice from 10-ounce jar of maraschino cherries (reserve the cherries for the end)
1/2 cup each white and brown sugar
¼ cup softened butter
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon each - salt and baking soda
Cup of chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
Add everything except cherries to mixing bowl. Beat well, scrape sides of bowl and beat again. Add chopped cherries and mix well. Bake in a greased and floured bread pan in a 350-degree oven for 60-70 minutes. Cool on rack, then invert onto a serving dish. Glaze: just mix a cup of powdered sugar with a teaspoon or two of milk and a teaspoon of almond extract. Beat and add milk until you get the consistency you like. Drizzle over warm bread.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at email@example.com.