I’m a huge fan of artichoke hearts—they’re great on pizza, in salads, and even by themselves. I pick up a can almost every time I go food shopping, but somehow I never seem to reach for them when cooking. Well, it was high time for artichoke hearts to be the stars of the show!
When researching artichoke-centric meals, I learned the difference between canned, frozen, and jarred artichoke hearts. Canned artichoke hearts come packed in water or brine, frozen artichoke hearts have no added ingredients, and jarred artichokes hearts are often "marinated," or stored in an oil-and-vinegar mixture. Since I had two cans of water-packed artichoke hearts, I decided to make Artichoke-Pecan Bread, which specifically calls for water-packed artichoke hearts to keep the bread moist. Another deciding factor was that this recipe didn’t require any ingredients that I didn’t already have on hand. Flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon: all pantry staples.
I took the liberty of “veganizing” the recipe by replacing the butter with vegan margerine and the eggs with applesauce. For these switcheroos, I consulted VT's Ingredient Substitution Guide. The only other time I strayed from the recipe was when it called for using a food processor to produce one cup of “finely chopped” artichoke hearts. I love my food processor, but I was feeling a bit lazy and didn’t want to locate it or clean it. (I also wanted to prove my serrated knife skills could do as good of a job as any food processor.)
When my loaf came out of the oven, I noticed that the bottom half was slightly overcooked, while the top half was a little underdone. When called upon for her culinary wisdom, Mary Margaret ChappelI, VT's food editor, said "the overdone/underdone issue comes from substituting the applesauce for eggs. While applesauce has the binding power of eggs (meaning it helps hold the flour and other ingredients together), it doesn't have the same leavening power (eggs also help baked goods rise). The denser, less-leavened batter probably got overheated on the bottom while the heat didn't make it through the loaf to the top in the same amount of time."
Chappell's solution: "I would try increasing the baking powder to 2 or even 2 1/2 tsp. (make sure the baking powder is not aluminum-based so that the cake doesn't taste tinny). That should give the batter enough rise to make it cook evenly all the way through."
I still found the bread to be delicious, though not at all what I was expecting: I thought the artichoke would have an overwhelming presence, but it was the cinnamon and the nutmeg that took “starring roles,” giving it a subtle but sweet flavor. The bread was dense, almost cake-like—something you would serve with coffee, which is what I chose to do.
I’m happy to report that my love-affair with artichoke hearts continues. Oh yeah, and the 'chokes were chopped to perfection.
—Sarah Smith, guest blogger
In addition to the scruptious Artichoke-Pecan Bread Sarah sampled, here are a few more great recipes featuring water-packed artichoke hearts:
Do you have wholesome ingredients sitting pretty on your pantry shelves? Pantry Raid is a new VT blog series that'll help you clean out your pantry, clean up your diet, and save cash. Stay tuned for more inspirational uses of kitchen staples.