Cranberry Nut Bread

My most favorite holiday of all, Thanksgiving, is almost here.  I’m not really sure why, perhaps because its just about family and tradition.   Christmas comes in at a close second, but Christmas can be stressful.  Not Thanksgiving.  And Thanksgiving occurs at the most beautiful time of year … cool, crisp Autumn weather, perfect for having an enormous feast.  And, hopefully, you get to share this feast with people you truly care about.  Even with all the work and chaos, I love it!

This is one of the recipes I have been making for about (cough, cough) 45 years, which MUST appear on the Thanksgiving table.  45 years ago we didn’t have the Internet or celebrity chefs and cooking shows, we found recipes wherever we could.  I found this recipe on the back of the bag of Ocean Spray cranberries.  I cut it out, taped it to a 3 x 5 card and put it into the recipe box, where it’s been ever since.  Although I’ve tweaked it just a bit over years, it’s basically the same.

Hope you enjoy it!

CRANBERRY NUT BREAD (or muffins)
Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 1 lb. loaf pan, bundt pan, or muffin tins.

2-1/4 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups chopped cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts)

In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients together, including grated orange peel.  In a smaller bowl, mix all wet ingredients together.  (See how easy this is.)

I chop the cranberries in the blender.  You can use whatever way to chop the cranberries that is easiest for you.  For the nuts, I just use a knife to chop.  Otherwise they become too fine and I like them chunky.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Don’t overbeat or the bread will become heavy.   Stir in the cranberries and then add the nuts.  Pour the batter into a well greased pan (or pans).  I think a bundt pan makes a nice presentation.  This will make one large loaf, or many smaller ones or muffins.

Bake for one hour (depending upon the size of the pan – muffins bake for about 25 mins.) or until toothpick inserted into center comes out dry and clean.  The bread should just pull back from the outside of the pan.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then cool completely before slicing.  This quick bread freezes beautifully, so if you want to make it ahead, do it with confidence.  Otherwise, find a plate, dust with powdered sugar and garnish.

To be enjoyed with your Thanksgiving dinner, or for Thanksgiving breakfast, or even later in the evening with your cuppa, enjoy!

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Bara Brith

In Wales, as in so many countries, it was customary for the women of the household to designate one day as “baking day”.  The entire day would be spent making all the breads, rolls, cakes and biscuits that would be needed for the week.  Using any bread dough that was leftover from making the yeast breads would then become the base for this bread.  Adding leftover tea, spices, dried fruits, sugar would then become that family’s Bara Brith.

Bara Brith or in Welsh “Speckled Bread” is exactly what it is … a bread speckled with dried fruits. Traditionally this is a yeast bread, but it is quite often made as a quick bread.  As with any regional recipe, each family has their own version.  This one might be a bit different from some that you’ve had in the past, why? because it’s MY version …. and it is delicious!!

If you are a fan of “the Great British Bake Off“, as I am, you might remember that one of the contestants actually baked her version of a yeasted Bara Brith as her entry on Season 4.  Click on the link below and you’ll find her recipe.  My version is a quick bread … but keep in mind you do have to let the dried fruits soak in the hot tea for a couple of hours in advance.

BARA BRITH
Bake 350°F for approximately one hour.  Makes one large loaf.

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almonds (optional)
(if not using ground almonds, increase flour to 2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot black tea
1/2 cup dried raisins (or any dried mixed fruits, diced)
1/2 cup dried dates, diced (or prunes, apricots, etc.)
1 apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a bowl, mix together the dried dates and dried raisins (or any combination of diced, dried fruits).  Pour one cup of hot, strong black tea over the fruits.  Cover and then let them plump up for at least three to four hours (or overnight, if you’d like).

Grease a one pound loaf pan.  Sift together the dry ingredients.  I love the flavor of almonds, and the texture that it gives this bread.  Use ground almond meal if you have it, or omit it and increase the flour to 2 cups.  This is all up to YOU.

Peel and grate onOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAe cooking apple (not a Mac or Macoun – too juicy).

In a large mixing bowl add all the dry ingredients, the brown sugar, the egg, the melted butter, and the dried fruit/tea mixture (with all the tea liquid).

Beat together until well blended.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for one hour.  Test after about 50 minutes for doneness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen done, turn out onto a cooling rack and then put the kettle on.

This bread is so-o-o-o moist and delicious, you’ll have a hard time not eating the entire loaf yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have the opportunity to visit Wales, be sure to make time one afternoon to stop for a spot of tea and enjoy a slice of this moist, sweet bread with it.  Slather it with butter if you like, but it’s not really necessary.  It stands up very well on its own.  If you don’t have the opportunity to visit Wales, do yourself a favor and make this bread!!  (The photos don’t do it credit.)

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References:  Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood’s British Baking, Traditional Welsh Recipes
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The Best Chocolate “Courgette” Bread

Until yesterday I didn’t know what a ”courgette” was either!  Now I do!  It’s a ZUCCHINI.  In Great Britain, a zucchini is called a “courgette“.  Also there are “golden courgettes“, which we call summer squash.

It seems this squash we call “zucchini” was originally from America, but somehow it found its way to Italy and then became introduced back to the States.  So confusing!  ‘Zucca’ is the Italian word for squash and ‘zucchino’ means ‘small squash’, which in the plural is ‘zucchini’.  “Courgette” is French for squash, which is the name used for this vegetable in many parts of Europe.

Well, my garden has been bursting with ‘courgettes‘ and I’ve made them every way I can think of … from sautes to stir fries to soups and stews, even pickling.  (Yes, they are delicious pickled.)  I’ve skewered them, roasted them, stuffed them, grated them and breaded them.  But, the best ‘courgette‘ recipe is this decadent, rich, chocolatey tea bread.  Oh my, you will love it!

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI (AKA ‘COURGETTE’) BREAD
The only time consuming part of this recipe is grating the zucchini.  It couldn’t be easier.

Oven 350° – Bake time: 1 hour (more or less)

2 squares unsweetened chocolate (melted)
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini (courgette)
1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate bits (optional)
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly grease and flour two loaf pans (or 24 muffin cups – or 1 bundt pan).

In a large bowl beat together the wet ingredients and then fold in grated zucchini.  When combined thoroughly, stir in dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add chocolate bits and/or walnuts if desired (first coat with a little flour to keep from sinking into batter).

For bread, bake for at least one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Less time for muffins.  A bit more for bundt.

Let cool completely before removing from pans.  Then put on the kettle and enjoy a hearty cuppa with a large slice!

chocolate zucchini bread

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References:  Wikipedia

Aunt Mae’s Soda Bread

The last time I saw my Aunt Mae was in her bungalow in the village of Tullamore in County Offaly, Ireland.  We spent the afternoon sitting at the kitchen table having tea and her freshly-baked soda bread while looking through the family photograph albums.  She was a mere slip of a woman, barely 5′ tall, with a delightful sense of humor, ready to enthrall you with endless stories.

This may certainly be the same classic Irish Soda Bread recipe that everyone uses, but for me, it’s my Aunt Mae’s soda bread ….. and it’s delicious!   Even if you aren’t someone who bakes, you can handle this one.  It’s quick and easy.  When you take it out of the oven, serve it up quickly with a big block of imported Irish butter.  Nothing better!

Aunt Mae’s Soda Bread
This will make one large loaf or two smaller loaves.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Gather the following ingredients, a large mixing bowl, measuring cup and spoon and baking pan or dish.  That’s it!

All purpose flour – 4 cups
Baking soda – 1-1/2 teaspoons
Salt – 1-1/2 teaspoons
Sugar – 1/4 cup (optional)
Raisins (dried cranberries or any dried fruit) – 1/2 cup
Buttermilk – 2 cups  (the buttermilk interacts with the baking soda causing the bread to rise)

Put the flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and mix together.  I use a whisk to incorporate the dry ingredients thoroughly and lighten the flour a bit.  Add the dried fruit and mix together. ?????????????????????? Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all the buttermilk.  With a fork, stir quickly until the dough comes together. Adding Buttermilk On a floured surface, tip the bowl over and work the dough with your hands into a nice smooth ball.  Don’t overknead the dough.  It will be soft. Form loaves Form a ball (or two if you are making two loaves) and place it in a greased baking pan.  Mine could have been a bit smoother.  Cut a criss-cross slash into the top of the loaf, about 1/2″ deep.  This will allow the loaf to  cook evenly.  It will expand (or open up) as it bakes. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour.  It should sound hollow when the bottom is thumped and a cake tester should come out clean (no crumbs). ??????????????????????????????? If you want to add a bit of sugar for sweetening, add it to the dry ingredients.  You may also brush the top of the loaf before baking with an egg wash or milk for a shiny crust. Be sure to put the kettle on, because you’re going to want a hot cuppa with a slice of Aunt Mae’s Soda Bread! ???????????????????????????????