Sunday, November 27, 2011

Orange Pecan Cranberry Bread

Hey Chickadees,

Have I ever told you how quick breads and I aren't the best of friends? They just don't like me much. But I like them, so I keep trying to make them. Last winter I made a cranberry bread that was okay, but not great. This year I was determined to make a different, better bread. I found a recipe I liked, made it once at home, and was excited to make it again when I went to California for Thanksgiving.

The cranberry bread, on the other hand, had other plans.

I share with you now how NOT to make Orange Pecan Cranberry Bread over your Thanksgiving break:

Day One:
Begin to think about making the bread. On pre-Thanksgiving last-minute trip to store, pick up extra bag of cranberries, yogurt, oranges, and orange oil. Let your mom pay for all of it. When you get home, let your sister talk you out of making the bread - there's too much other Thanksgiving food.

Day Two:
Eat all that other Thanksgiving food.

Day Three:
Consider making this bread. Realize that the oranges you have will not yield enough orange juice. Call Mama B and ask her to pick up some OJ on her way home (we'll just pretend it's fresh squeezed). Lay down on the couch while waiting for her to come home. When she arrives, thank her from the couch for getting the juice. Fall asleep on couch. Zombie-walk up to bed some time later.

Day Four:
Decide it's time to make this bread once and for all. Begin to gather ingredients. Begin to zest oranges. Realize that the zesting is causing you to sweat. Investigate this. Conclude that the cheese grater you are using to zest the orange is the same cheese grater you've been using whole life.  Say, "That's it! Zesting an orange should not be this difficult! I'm going to Target for a proper zester!"

Go to Target. Walk directly to the kitchen section. Do not, under any circumstances, take a detour through the clothes section - the bread will certainly never get made if that happens. Purchase zester. Go home and successfully zest oranges.

Begin to mix dry ingredients. Go to the pantry for flour. Scream.

Yes, scream.

Because, Chickadees, there is no flour in the pantry.

Assure all other family members and dogs in the house who came running when you screamed that you are not seriously injured. Take some deep breaths. Double-check the rest of the ingredient list. Thank goodness - everything else besides flour is accounted for.

Drive to the local market. On your way, kidnap your sister who went out for a run and make her come to the market with you - you are in need of moral support. Purchase flour, ideally not at the register where the kid you once cheated on a spelling test with in first grade is the checker. Drive home.

Finally, finally, finish making this bread. Fend off family members from eating it until you've photographed it. Then eat half the loaf yourself. After everything you went through to get this far, you deserve it.

Seriously, Chickadees, making this bread doesn't have to take four days and multiple trips to the store to make. Yes, there is a bit more prep involved than some other quick breads, but with a food processor and a proper zester, it's not that bad. To save more time, buy pre-chopped nuts, high-quality orange juice, and don't bother chopping the cranberries.

And remember - if you do get to the pantry and have no flour, it's okay to scream.

Happy zesting,

Orange Pecan Cranberry Bread
Adapted from Luna Cafe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup plain nonfat yogurt
¾ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, cool room temperature
½ teaspoon orange oil or 1 teaspoon orange extract
finely grated zest of 1 large orange (2-3 tablespoons)
1 cup fresh cranberries, each cut in half
1 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven with plenty of room above it and preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan or spray with flour baking spray (or 3 mini loaf pans).
3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. In another mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt and orange juice. Set aside.
5. Cream butter and sugar until pale and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
6. Add eggs gradually, beating continuously to incorporate. Then add orange oil and zest and mix briefly to incorporate.
7. Using the slowest speed of the mixer, add flour mixture in three increments, alternating with the addition of 2 increments of the yogurt-orange juice mixture. The last addition should be the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients by folding together with a large spatula.
8. While folding, add the reserved cranberries and pecans, and incorporate gently and quickly. The batter should be well combined, but do not over mix or the bread will not be tender.
9. Spoon the batter immediately into the prepared pan, filling no more than three fourths full (if there’s extra batter, make a mini loaf or muffins), level the top with a flexible spatula. Bake for about 55-65 minutes. (Smaller loaves require about 40-45 minutes of baking.) The internal temperature of the loaf when tested at the center with a thin instant-read thermometer should read 180° when done. The traditional wooden skewer probe recommended so often as a test for doneness will still be a bit sticky at this point. Over baking this bread makes it dry.
10. Remove from the oven, let settle in the pan for 10 minutes, and then gently turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Do Ahead If well-wrapped to prevent moisture loss, this bread will keep at room temperature for a day or two; or longer in the freezer. It actually improves in texture and taste after a day or so of proper storage.

Katie’s note: This recipe seems to make more batter than fits in 1 9x5 loaf pan. I doubled this recipe and divided the batter between 3 9x5 loaf pans. The bread does rise in the oven, so make sure to fill your pans no more than ¾ full.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Pudding

Hey Readers! Remember a few months ago when I was reduced to a spoon food only diet? Well, the spoon is once again my best friend.

This time it's not because I want to eat only spoon food, but because I must; I had gum surgery last week.

(Aw...thanks. Yeah, I am feeling better--it's so sweet of you to ask! No, it doesn't hurt a ton, especially not with the painkillers. Yeah, I've been eating lots of ice cream and applesauce and pudding...)

Right! Pudding! That's what I'm here to talk about.

So, here I am at home all by myself with three orders from the doctor: 1) eat spoon foods, 2) the less talking the better, and 3) no smiling or laughing.

After watching as many mediocre mid-90's movies on Netflix as I can find (mediorcre = less chance of laughing, though the mid-90's thing may cancel that out), I head to the fridge for some spoon food, and discover some leftover pumpkin.

Hmmmm, what to make with that pumpkin? I ask myself (silently of course, since I'm not talking. Not that I talk to myself out loud usually anyway...okay, I talk to myself out loud all the time, so this whole talking less thing is actually kind of difficult. Like Twitter for my mouth.)

I don't know, answers myself.

You could make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, myself says.

But then I couldn't eat them--spoon stuff only, remember?, myself replies.

Oh, right, myself grumbles.

So, no pumpkin chocolate chip cookies because no spoon, and white chocolate pumpkin fudge is out for the same reason. Pumpkin donut muffins? Nope. Pumpkin pancakes? Er...with enough syrup I could use a spoon...NO! Spoon foods only! myself insists.

Okay then, myself scoffs. No need to get snippy.

And then, as I reach for yet another Jello chocolate pudding, it dawns on me.

Pumpkin pudding! myself exclaims!

YES! Pumpkin pudding! myself agrees.

And I'm so happy at the thought of pumpkin pudding, that I break into a big gri--

Ah. That's why I'm not supposed to smile. It hurts.

But I eventually (ok, basically immediately) recover and make the pudding, and it's just what the doctor ordered.

With ingredients you probably already have on hand, this pumpkin pudding would be an easy week-before-Thanksgiving treat. Or, if you have a pie-crust phobia but don't want to deny your Thanksgiving guests the pumpkin pie experience, this pudding could be just what you need.

Lest I leave you feeling sorry for me and my spoon-only, no-smiling, less-talking state, I'll share that four days of having to choose what I eat, say, and smile at does have it's rewards. I've tried new foods, like this pudding, that I never would have tried otherwise. I've examined what's really important in my everyday chatter. And I've realized how blessed I am to have so much laughter in my life, even if I can't partake in it for a while.

Spoon-fed, silent, and smile-less, life is still good, I think to myself.

So true, myself replies. So true.


Pumpkin Pudding
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart
Makes four servings

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (I used molasses, but next time will substitute with maple syrup...I don't care for the slight molasses taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1. Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a large heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add half-and-half, egg yolks, molasses, and salt; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture starts to thicken. 

2. Add the water in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Stir in pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice; cook until very thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool slightly.  Serve warm. For thicker, cold pudding, place pudding in bowl or small serving cups, cover with plastic wrap (to avoid a skin), and chill for at least one hour.