I first met Joanne Squires-Sherif about five years ago, just after she opened her North Park bakery cafe, Cardamom. She did then what she always does, embrace and feed you with house-made flaky croissants or sweet brioche, maybe an omelet or sandwich. The neighborhood cafe is cozy and colorful, its walls shades of yellow, green, and purple, sporting vibrant paintings by local artists. It's clearly Joanne's alternate home. And she's utterly sincere when she says she loves all her customers. Many have grown to be dear friends.
Last week, I didn't hang out at Cardamom for a meal; I came to learn how Joanne makes a couple of her annual holiday treats--specifically her Pumpkin Walnut Cranberry Quick Bread and her Apple Spice Bread Pudding with Rum Raisins.
It wasn't a banner morning when I got there. Joanne's large refrigerator had just gone on the fritz. Unfazed, she had already moved ingredients elsewhere. Her cook figured out a fix, but in any case Joanne was already plotting her next improvement--installing a walk-in. The place was humming. One of her five kids, 20-year-old daughter Galen was busy serving customers, as she's done since she was 14. The long butcher block island in the kitchen was already filled with prepped ingredients for both breads and once I got there, Joanne set to work, starting with the quick bread. This is a bread she's been making for about 10 years. It's adapted from different sources and Joanne is quick to point out that even those breads she's been making for years she's still fiddling with.
Using a stand mixer, she combined a metal bowl filled with sugar and orange zest with melted butter into the stand mixer bowl. With the mixer running on low, she added water, pureed pumpkin, the dry ingredients, and finally walnuts and cranberries. Once the ingredients were loosely combined, she poured the batter into a variety of paper loaf pans and muffin cups.
While she'd been working on that, a large metal bowl on the island sat off to one side filled with torn brioche and croissant pieces soaking in a sweet cream and egg mixture to make a rich, fragrant bread pudding. This recipe, too, was as easy as the quick bread. Galen had already caramelized chopped and sliced apples in butter. Joanne's blend of dark and golden raisins had been soaking in rum since the night before. Everything but the sliced apples, brown sugar, and cubed butter was added and stirred. Joanne then poured the batter into paper loaf pans, topped them with the sliced apples and brown sugar, and dabbed the tops with butter before sending them into the oven.
While we waited for the breads to bake, Joanne headed over to her large espresso machine and made us frothy cups of tea latte, with Darjeeling tea, cardamom pods, and honey topped by steamed milk. It was both acrid and sweet, redolent of the cardamom and so soothing on that chilly morning.
We talked about the origins of the bakery's name. Joanne's grandmother was Norwegian; her ex husband is from Ethiopia but is part Arab. Cardamom plays a role in both cultures so it was something the couple had in common. Long ago she used to make their family cardamom rolls, which he loved. When the time came to name the shop, it was named for those rolls.
By now the breads were out of the oven. Joanne set them in front of me and we dug in.
The bread pudding was beautifully browned; its interior creamy and buttery and just slightly boozy from the rum. The bits of apple were sweet and played nicely with the rummed up raisins. I could have gone for a dollop of whipped cream or the caramel Joanne usually drizzles over it, but the already rich naked bread pudding was just fine for me.
By the time I finished that slice, I had no room for the quick bread, but I took it and the leftover bread pudding to my parents house and we dove in. I loved the lightness of the bread and how the faint flavor of the orange zest melded with the rich pumpkin and pop of tartness that erupted from biting into the cranberries.
Pumpkin Walnut Cranberry Quick Bread
from Joanne Squires-Sherif
Yield: 1 dozen regular-size muffins or one regular quick bread loaf
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs (We use Eben-Haezer Poulty Ranch in Ramona. The size and quality are consistent and they are family owned and operated.)
15-ounce can of pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
zest of one orange
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh cranberries
3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine butter and eggs.
3. Mix in pumpkin, sugar, zest, and water.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
5. Divide batter into muffin cups or loaf pans.
6. Bake loaves at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Bake muffins at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Spiced Apple Bread Pudding with Rum Raisins
from Joanne Squires-Sherif
Yield: 4 ramekins or 1 9-inch square pan
3/4 cup dark raisins
3/4 cup golden raisins
Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
8 cups days-old but not stale bread or rolls, cubed 1-inch. If you use wheat, the pudding will have a nuttier flavor.
2 egg yolks
2 cups half and half or manufacturers cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Five Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup cold, cubed butter
1/4/ cup brown sugar
1. Place raisins in a dish and cover with the rum. Allow raisins to soak at least two hours. (I love to have rum raisins around the house during the holidays. You can add them to muffins, pancakes, or coffee cake.)
2. In a large bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients. Add the cubed bread and let soak from two hours to overnight in the refrigerator.
3. Peel, core, and chop four apples. Peel, core, and slice one apple. Saute the apples in butter for five minutes until caramelized. Keep the cubed and sliced apples separate. Set aside.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. Gently mix in the cubed apples and drained rum raisins to the bread mixture. Portion the bread mixture evenly into butter ramekins or a 9-inch pan.
6. Lay sliced apples decoratively on top of the batter, sprinkle with brown sugar, and dot with butter.
7. Bake at 350 degrees. The ramekins will need 30 minutes, the pan will need 40 minutes. Use a toothpick inserted into the bread pudding to test. It should come out just slightly wet. Don't over bake.
Both breads are easy to make and wonderful for a holiday table or to take to a party as a hostess gift. No time to bake? No worries. Joanne has a host of breads customers can buy, including Cardamom Holiday Stollen, Pan d'Oro, Hungarian Sweet Cheese bread, Brioche Têtes, Brioche Pumpkin, and Brie Baked in Brioche. You can find Cardamom in North Park at 2977 Upas St. at 30th St.