What an odd little piece I found myself reading in T:Style Magazine a few weekends ago. The couple featured in the article, while hosting a fabulous assortment of guests at their dinner party, seemed stiff and unhappy: "He pours red wine, fidgets with the music and circles gingerly around his wife. [She] juggles hostess duties while navigating the pristine kitchen, with its food-unfriendly teak countertops and a pantry full of collector’s-item dishes." Their proclamations bordered on the ridiculous: ‘‘It looks very minimalist,’’ Sabine says. ‘‘But it’s minimalism done in a very elaborate and detailed way.’’ Mm-hmm. Wha?
And the menu (those poor, poor guests)...
Which editor signed off on the piece? Did Maura Egan realize how unpleasant her subjects sounded? Was this unflattering portrait done on purpose? Did she actually eat the food being served and enjoy it? Because one fact remains: Sabine Maharam's reputation as a "queen of the domestic arts" is seriously questionable, at least if you base this evaluation on her apple-hazelnut bread, which was, dear readers, an abomination.
I just don't get it. I will bet good money that neither Maura nor anybody else at the Times actually attempted to bake this leaden loaf themselves. Because if they had, they would have been embarrassed to print the recipe in T:Style. (Let's not even get started on the "Green Minestrone" in the same article.) If anyone minimally practiced in recipe-reading had been present at the editing of this article, I'd like to think they would have intervened, too, but it seems that was not the case.
I'll admit that I decided to make this bread after reading the article and the recipe and knowing, just knowing, that it couldn't turn out well. But wouldn't it have been such a good story if it had? Self-Righteous Recipe-Testing Blogger Admits Foolish Mistake! Downtown Artist's Apple-Hazelnut Bread The Best Thing Since Sliced (um) Bread! Strange Health Food Hybrid Ends Up Winning Most Delicious Award! But against my hopes and wishes, this bread turned out to be even worse than I imagined.
Everything about the recipe was just off. A half-teaspoon of cocoa? Seriously? Why? You certainly couldn't taste it. Apples cut into sticks instead of grated - I don't understand. And no instructions as to whether the nuts should have been peeled or unpeeled, toasted or maybe even chopped? (If you're going to attempt this, and I don't know why you would - definitely toast and chop the nuts.) I followed the recipe as best I could, and it's true that, visually, it was sort of pretty. But eating it was so unpleasant. Even spread with butter as directed.
I attempted to fob some of it off on Ben's mother, the poor woman, but I'm hoping she wised up by now and threw it away. That's what I did. Thanks for nothing, T:Style.
13 ounces apple (2 to 3 medium), peeled, cored and chopped into 1⁄4 by 1⁄4 by 1 1⁄2 inch sticks
1⁄2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup whole hazelnuts
1⁄2 teaspoon ground clove
1⁄2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons dark rum
2 cups spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder.
1. In a large bowl, mix the apples and sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (Do not skip this process, as the apples will expel water, needed to moisten the bread.)
2. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees. Grease a 7-inch round springform pan or an 8 1⁄2-by-4 1⁄2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Stir the nuts, clove, cocoa and rum into the apple mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour to the apple mixture and stir until combined. Transfer the dough to the pan, pat down and bake for 70 minutes. Cool in the pan. If you like, serve with butter and fleur de sel.