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Breaking Bread 

A holiday recipe from Pastry Chef Amber Billingsley.

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might remember that I shared a few lovely recipes from local chefs. One of the recipes I gathered was for carrot bread with cinnamon mascarpone glaze from Amber Billingsley, who makes with the sweet at Current Fish & Oyster (279 E. 300 South, 801-326-3474, currentfishandoyster.com) and Stanza (454 E. 300 South, 801-746-4441, stanzaslc.com). I was going to share this a bit earlier, but I was so enamored with the recipe the first time I made it that I hoarded it away like Gollum and his precious. Maybe the holly jolly of the season has officially taken hold, or maybe it's the deluge of #givethanks posts gumming up my social media with their sticky sweet gooeyness, but sharing this recipe feels like the least I can do in such trying times.

I started off a bit skeptical about this recipe, since it sounds a lot like carrot cake, a dessert which has done me wrong on numerous occasions. Though I have some carrot cake-related baggage, I'm also smart enough to know that when a renowned pastry chef hooks you up with even the slightest peek behind the curtain, it's a sin to let that opportunity pass. So I got to work grating carrots, raiding my spice rack and tracking down some mascarpone cheese—which was pretty hard to find back in March, now that I think about it.

The result was an autumnal, spice-filled loaf just begging to be sliced into thick squares and devoured alongside some creamy eggnog or piping hot coffee. The cinnamon mascarpone glaze adds some creamy and tangy zip to the whole affair, and if you happen to find yourself in a mascarpone void, softened cream cheese is an adequate—if slightly less classy—substitute. My first few attempts left me with loaves that were practically swimming in that delicious glaze, which isn't all that bad since it tastes good on pretty much anything. Eventually, I got the hang of this unassumingly flavorful dessert, and it's going to maintain a permanent seat at my holiday dinner table.

In order to help others avoid a few amateur mistakes I made in the process, here are some things to keep in mind. First and foremost, when the recipe tells you to wait for the loaf to cool completely, you gotta leave it in the pan to do so. If you're extremely impatient, you can set the whole arrangement—pan and all—on a cooling rack to expedite the process. On my very first attempt, I slid the loaf out onto some cooling racks right out of the oven, and it wasn't long before they guillotined their way through that delicate crumb. I also think premature frosting was behind watching the glaze of my earlier attempts melt and make a break for it, so please make sure the loaf is room temperature at the warmest before removing it from the pan and hitting it with the cinnamon mascarpone glaze.

Once you feel confident in your abilities, I suggest taking Chef Billingsley's advice and adding some textural complement to the icing. Pumpkin seeds are a no brainer, but toasted pine nuts, candied ginger or chopped pecans/walnuts are all delicious ways to put your own spin on the recipe.

So, without further ado, here is the dessert that will inevitably become the unsung hero of your holiday dinners from now on. Good luck and God bless.

Carrot Bread with Cinnamon Mascarpone Glaze
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces neutral oil such as canola
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1½ cups carrot, peeled and shredded
(approx. 2 large carrots)

Cinnamon Mascarpone Glaze
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray standard, 8½ x 4½ x 2½ loaf pan with cooking spray. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper (optional).

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and combine with a whisk and set aside. In a separate large bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, eggs, and buttermilk until well-combined. Sir in dry ingredients. Mixture will be thick so switch to a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine. When fully combined, fold in shredded carrots until evenly mixed.

Scrape mixture into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a tester is inserted and comes out clean and loaf feels springy to the touch. While bread is baking, make the glaze.

Whisk all glaze ingredients together in a medium bowl and spread over carrot loaf once it has cooled completely. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds, or any chopped nut or seed you like, but feel free to leave it plain as well.

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