It was the summer of 1987. The Girl Scout Jamboree was being held in Escanaba, Michigan, and I had been selected to represent our GS troop at the annual parade that weekend. The state fairgrounds turned into a massive campground for every Girl Scout troop in Upper Michigan, complete with a tent city, a full calendar of activities, and a gigantic bonfire at night. Also, because it was summertime, fresh berries were available to us all – blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries.
I gorged myself on a pint of strawberries the afternoon I arrived and by nightfall I was so sick with food poisoning and heatstroke that the Red Cross nurses had to fetch me the next morning and call my folks who lived over an hour away. I stayed with the nurses until my parents made it to the campground where they promptly scooped me up, settled me into the backseat, and had me report to them any sightings of funnel clouds on the drive home. That night, a tornado blew through Escanaba while I slept snuggly in my own bed… miles away from the horror of it all.
And I totally blamed all of this misfortune on strawberries. For nearly 25 years, I have avoided the fruit with every fiber of my being. I’ve endured ridicule and mockery for being that girl, the one who doesn’t like strawberries. Not even with chocolate? No. Whipped cream? NO! Apparently, this makes me defective and sub-human.
But all this changed today. Here’s how:
Yesterday, Matt and I took the kiddo to the Beaches Green Market in Neptune Beach. It’s that time of year when strawberries are a much sought-after delight to the taste buds and people will stand in long lines to get their hands on these babies. And just because I’m not a fan doesn’t mean I will deprive my child of the fruit she loves most. We bought two pints of locally-grown strawberries and I immediately noticed the scent was much different from the ones I’d been buying at the supermarket. Mouthwatering might be too strong a word for me to use at this point in my reawakened relationship with strawberries, but it comes pretty darn close.
I decided Elle could eat some straight from the bunch while I staked my claim on just enough for a recipe (whether cake, muffin, or bread) to slowly reintroduce myself to this berry I once loved. After searching online for about an hour and looking at photographs of finished products, I decided on a Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread. It looked easy, it looked delectable, and it looked like a perfect dessert for a day of grilling out and enjoying some springtime temperatures here in North Florida.
Because of this heavenly bread, my love affair with the strawberry is slowly regaining momentum in the right direction.
STRAWBERRY CREAM CHEESE BREAD
½ cup of butter – softened
1 cup of sugar
3 ounces of cream cheese – softened
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt
½ cup of half & half
1 ½ cups of strawberries – chopped
- With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and cream cheese until fluffy. Add eggs (one at a time) then add vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Blend the flour mixture with the butter mixture until creamy and add the half & half. Stir until creamy.
- Drain the strawberries and blot dry. Fold in strawberries – dough mixture will become thicker.
- Pour into greased and floured 9×5 loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.
After baking it in my oven for approximately 55 minutes, I let the loaf cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then set it to cool on a cooling rack for an additional 15 minutes. The center of the loaf felt weighted and very heavy so be careful to support the center when you move it out of the loaf pan to cool. The recipe said to let the bread mellow for one day and serve but that wasn’t about to happen in my household. First of all, nobody knows what the hell let the bread mellow even means. Secondly, I dare you to not shove this stuff in your face at the first opportunity you get.
One last thing: AHMAHGAWD!!!! It’s positively, lip-smackingly, succulently scrumptious.
And that’s coming from a former strawberry hater.
P.S. My dearest strawberries, I am so sorry I ever doubted you. Can we be friends again? PLEASE?