Of all the spring produce I love, strawberries are near the top of the list. They are amongst the first fresh fruits to arrive in the markets, and their versatility is boundless. Eat them fresh, as is, or dress them up with sugar, whipped cream, or chocolate sauce. Veer toward savory with a strawberry salsa. Or, bake them into a quick bread, with a couple of strawberry-friendly flavor pals. I tried many years ago to bake a strawberry bread, with disastrous results. The texture was wet and soggy, the flavor too sweet and too oily, and not true to the deliciousness of fresh strawberries. After some deliberation I decided to roast the strawberries, amp up the flavors with a healthy dose of lemon zest, and reduce the sugar. In place of butter I used coconut oil, then tossed in a few coconut chips, for texture. All in all, the result is very good. One caveat is still the moisture content of the fruit. Although the roasting helps, you will still need to check the doneness of the loaf very carefully. Tent the bread with foil when it reaches your desired degree of bronze, and then lower your oven heat a bit and be patient. It will need more than an hour for this standard-sized loaf to bake through. You will be rewarded with a moist and flavorful bread that is terrific on its own , or a as a platform for ice cream.
Here’s to the freshness of Spring; let’s get cooking!
Roasted Strawberry Bread with Coconut and Lemon
- 1 pound fresh strawberries , rinsed, hulled, and halved (or cut into thirds if large)
- 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 8 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- A heaping 1/3 cup of lightly crushed coconut chips (optional)
- 2 ounces light brown sugar
- 3 ounces granulated sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 4 ounces coconut oil , melted
- 2 large eggs
- 6 ounces whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
For the roasted strawberries: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the strawberries on the sheet, drizzle with the coconut oil, and sprinkle on the brown sugar. Toss gently until the berries are evenly coated with oil and sugar. Bake for 25 minutes, or until softened and somewhat shrunken in size. Remove to a plate to cool. If you like, set aside several berry halves. Slice these thinly and use to top the loaf before it goes in the oven. Coarsely chop the remainder of the cooled berries. You should have about a 1 cup measure of chopped berries. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Butter and flour a standard 9x5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and coconut chips (if using). In a medium bowl combine the brown and granulated sugars. Work the lemon zest into the sugars with a fork, until evenly distributed and fragrant. Whisk in the coconut oil and blend together well. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking to incorporate. The mixture should look smooth and emulsified. Add the milk and vanilla paste and blend again until smooth. Add the chopped berries to the bowl of dry ingredients and toss gently, just to coat them lightly. This helps keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan during baking. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold together quickly and gently until evenly moistened. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Add your strawberry slices to the top of the batter, making a row down either side of the loaf. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. If the bread is sufficiently browned, tent it with foil, lower the oven heat to 325°F, and bake for another 15 minutes.
Start testing the loaf for doneness at this point, inserting a cake tester in the middle or close to the strawberry slices atop the loaf. The tester should come out completely clean, and the bread will have shrunk a little from the sides of the pan. You may need to bake the bread for an additional 10 minutes or so to achieve this result.
When the strawberry bread is thoroughly baked, remove the pan to a rack and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Carefully turn the loaf out onto the rack to cool completely. Slice and enjoy! Keep leftovers, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for 3 days.