Strawberry Bread with Spiced Walnut Crumb Topping

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Strawberries are beginning to come into full force in my local markets. And my garden is beginning to flower the sweet berries as well, much to my (and the kids') delight! We picked up a large batch from the local Whole Foods the other day and wanted to make something special with them. The nasty weather outside has us indoor bound, so Little Girl and Little Boy had the brilliant idea to bake a strawberry bread!

Here's the deal with baking with strawberries. You know that amazing sweet, slightly tart flavor they have when you eat them fresh? That sort of disappears when you bake with them; they tend to lose that tartness and rather go decidedly sweet leaving an irresistible strawberry essence flavor more than a powerful, impact of the sweet/tart you're used to when eating them fresh. Just an FYI in case you were mentally expecting something out of this.

Since the strawberries will lose some of their potency during baking, I decided to use some strawberry-flavored Greek yogurt in the batter. The flavor was amazing, and the subtle strawberry flavor was carried over beautifully throughout the cake between the yogurt and fresh sliced berries folded in. Vanilla and some freshly grated orange zest helped round out the flavors well. On the top, I was inspired by the Greek yogurt and decided to go to Greece again, using the traditional walnut filling for a baklava instead as a crumb topping on top of the bread! Crunchy walnuts mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and the smallest pinch of clove was a perfect spicy balance to the sweetness of the strawberry bread. This was a huge hit in the house. I love serving it with more sliced fresh strawberries on top for a perfect morning breakfast! Enjoy it!

Strawberry Bread with Spiced Walnut Crumb Topping
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp grated orange zest (can sub with lemon if you like)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
3/4 cup strawberry flavored greek yogurt (recommend: Greek Gods strawberry honey yogurt)
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
for the topping:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (raw)
1 tsp white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a bread loaf pan (or spray with baking spray) and set aside. Yes you must do this so the bread can release easily from the pan and not burn.

Mix the topping first. Combine the walnuts, sugar, and spices in a bowl and toss to combine. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter on medium speed for a couple of minutes, then add the sugar and cream butter and sugar together until color lightens to a pale yellow and consistency looks "fluffy" -- about 5-8 minutes more. Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Turn the mixer on medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time, to mix in. You want to mix the mixture until each egg is just incorporated through before adding the next egg. Add the orange zest and vanilla to the mixture and beat until combined.

With mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add half of the yogurt and mix, then another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the final amount of yogurt, then end with a final 1/3 of the flour mixture. You want to work relatively quickly so as not to overbeat the batter. Overmixing will give you a tougher bread. Mix until just incorporated through, then turn mixer off. Add the fresh strawberries and using a spatula, fold them into the batter by hand. If you add the strawberries and put the mixer on, it will pulverize the strawberries and you won't get those chunks in the bread. (Conversely, if that's your goal then go ahead and mix them quickly in). The batter will be quite thick (not runny like a cake or box mix batter).

Go ahead and transfer the batter into the buttered bread pan. Then sprinkle the walnut topping evenly right on top. Place in oven and bake at 350 for about 35 minutes, or until top and sides are golden and a cake tester comes out clean. (cake tester = stick a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean it's done; if it comes out with batter on it then it still needs to cook)

Let stand in pan 10 minutes before taking out. Let cool before slicing. To serve, slice a thick slice and top with more sliced fresh strawberries if desired. Goes amazing with coffee or tea for a perfect breakfast or brunch!

Will keep in an air-tight container or in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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