Alice Medrich doesn’t have a whole lot of non-chocolate recipes in her cookbook Chocolate and the Art of Low-fat Desserts but what she does include is unfalteringly good. When I first saw the recipe for Apricot Yam Loaf I quickly turned the page…compared to mousse, it’s boring. I was a little naive. I should have known she wouldn’t disappoint.
Have you ever soaked chopped dried apricots in Disaronno? I have. The smell alone is amazing, and they’re not even cooking. It would have been very easy to wait the 15 minutes and then pour the whole thing over frozen yogurt and call it a night. But I stuck it out and made the whole recipe since I’d already roasted the sweet squash (the name of which I don’t even know) and had been waiting to make this recipe for awhile. I was less drunk and probably better off for it.
2/3 c. diced dried apricots
1/2 sweet vermouth (or sweet flavoured liqueur of choice…probably not crème de menthe…just something to go with the apricots, like grand marnier, rum, strawberry liqueur, crème de cassis even)
2 c. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
a lemon (preferably organic for flavour)
6 tbsp unsalted butter
an egg white
1 c. puréed sweet potato, yam or squash. Easiest thing to do is roast one of these. If you roast the squash you don’t even need to peel anything, and you get seeds to roast later. You can also steam the yam or sweet or sweet potato. 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes or until soft.
1/3 c. chopped walnuts (the original recipe calls for 2/3rds but I think that’s way too much and distracts from the apricot sweetness. Depends what you’re into)
This makes two 5-cup loaves and each loaf should serve 8 or 9…but it’s way too easy to end up eating more than a serving…maybe it would have been better for me to just drink the disaronno…
Get the eggs and butter out of the fridge and make sure they get to room temperature before you try to blend them with anything.
Get the loaf pans ready (butter or parchment paper). Then put the apricots and vermouth (or liqueur of choice) in a small cup. Leave it for 15 minutes. Then pour through a sieve placed over a bowl and press the apricots (lightly) to extract some of the juice. You want some to stay in the apricots so they stay plump when they bake.
Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a small bowl combine the sugar and brown sugar, getting rid of any clumps with your hands.
Then grate the lemon zest into a large bowl, add the butter, and beat until creamy (this was another step where I could have stopped. Whipped lemon-infused butter is a really nice flavour. Perfect for fish or vegetables, and nice with bread). Instead, I did what I was told and beat in the sugars on high. Then I added the egg and egg white and beat until it was smooth.
By the way, I happen to have four beautiful mixing bowls. They’re a lovely set that stack one inside the other. I ended up using 1 bowl to separate the egg white, 1 for the sugar, 1 for the flour, and 1 for the lemon zest and butter. When Alice asked for a small bowl, I got excited because I had that. And when she asked for a large bowl, I got excited again because I had that too. No substitutions. It was like she kept asking for exactly what I had on hand, like I was doing something right in my kitchen by having the exact equipment required. When my roommate came home I enthusiastically exclaimed to him “Guess what? I used ALL 4 BOWLS! It was so cool!” He paused…and stared…and said, “You’re such a geek”. Well, yes, I know, thanks.
Anyway, then using Alice’s tried and true flour/liquid/flour/liquid blending technique, I added half the flour on low, then the drained apricot liqueur on medium, then the rest of the flour on low, and finally the squash purée on medium. Flour will go everywhere if you beat it on medium, and beating the liquid on low is a waste of time.
Oh, but you’re allowed to stop and waste time by scraping the bowl with a spatula.
Then stir in the walnuts and diced apricots.
Pour into the pans and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the loaf comes out without any crumbs or batter attached.
Cool the loaves for 10 minutes on a rack and then take them out of the pans or out of the parchment paper to cool completely. It’s okay to have a piece now, because the edges are crispy and delicious, but the loaf will be crumbly. There’ll be a big difference when you have a piece the next day, once the flavours have “married,” says Alice, “although, alas, the crust is soft.” She sounded so disappointed that I laughed. Poor Alice and her disappointingly soft crust. Is marriage always such a let-down? I hope she’s okay.