The tradition of creating a Thanksgiving Day bread basket is one of my favorites. I realize that the current trend is to reduce one’s intake of refined carbohydrates, which includes breads, but Thanksgiving is a holiday, and occasional indulgences in moderation are a pleasurable thing. I enjoy putting together a basket with a variety of savory and sweet breads, yeast breads and quick breads. When I know that I am creating a particularly bountiful basket, I may elect to make a lighter, nutritious, non-bread-based stuffing or dressing. The next post features a recipe for a very savory red and brown rice, barley and rye dressing with fruits, nuts and herbs.
After making a few yeast breads–which I love to do, but let’s face it, they are time-consuming and labor-intensive–I love to make a few easy but flavorful quick sweet breads. Homemade quick breads are distinctively different than those usually found at the supermarket bakery, which are often overly sweet, artificially flavored and very cake-like in texture. Homemade quick breads should have an initial crunch as you bite through the exterior, and should then have a moist, light, craggy interior. They can be prepared with all natural ingredients, some of which are sweet, so the sugar can be reduced.
Two of my favorites are Brandied Applesauce Spice Bread and Orange-Cranberry-Walnut Bread. The batters for these breads take just minutes to prepare, and within 50-60 minutes, you have two loaves of each flavor and a wonderfully fragrant kitchen! You can use all organic ingredients, as I did, but the important thing is to use the best quality ingredients that you can source that are compatible with your individual food philosophy.
Orange-Cranberry-Walnut Bread, adapted from a recipe on chow.com retrieved on 11/10/2014
Makes 2 9 x 5 loaves
4 cups all-purpose flour (I used organic, unbleached)
2 cups granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 medium organic oranges
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons fine salt
1 and 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
4 Tablespoons unsalted butte, melted and additional to coat each pan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure orange extract
1 and 1/2 cups fresh whole cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts, your preference
Butter 2 – 9 x 5 inch loaf pans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and place a rack in the center of the oven
Melt the 4 Tablespoons of butter and set aside.
Whisk all of the dry ingredients together, items 1-6, in a large mixing bowl to evenly distribute the ingredients and to avoid clumps.
Whisk together the wet ingredients and eggs in another bowl just briefly, and then add to the dry ingredients.
Stir with a wooden spoon just sufficiently to combine the ingredients, but do not over-mix.
Fold in the cranberries and nuts.
Divide the batter between the 2 loaf pans and make certain to push the batter into the corners and to smooth the tops.
Bake until tester placed into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
Cool for about 5-10 minutes in the pan and then turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack.
Cool to just warm prior to slicing.
These loaves can be prepared a few days or a few weeks in advance, wrapped in foil and frozen in a freezer bag, and then thawed overnight on the kitchen counter prior to the day of serving. This bread should appear golden when done, should have an initial crunch when you take your first bite, and the interior should have a moist, light and craggy texture. There should be the prominent flavor of sweet orange, the tart flavor of fresh cranberries, and the crunch of the nuts.
If you really love the addition of something special, you can either serve this bread with a Cranberry-Orange Compound Butter, or a drizzle of light Cream Cheese Glaze with Crystallized Ginger.
Cranberry-Orange Compound Butter
Soften 16 Tablespoons of unsalted butter (I like the flavor and quality of Kerrygold)
In a medium size mixing bowl, cream the butter with your mixer with 4 Tablespoons of orange zest and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries until the ingredients are well-distributed. (do not use frozen cranberries–they will add too much water)
Divide the flavored butter into two portions, and shape into 2 logs, using parchment paper, secure the ends and store in the refrigerator. An alternative is to fill 2 4 inch ramekins with the butter and cover with plastic wrap.
Compound butters are best made one day in advance, and then removed from the refrigerator one hour prior to serving for the best flavor.
Cream Cheese-Crystallized Ginger Glaze
Beat 4 ounces of cream cheese with 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, 2 teaspoons pure orange extract and sufficient half and half to created a glaze that is thin enough to drizzle. This is not intended to be a thick cream cheese cake frosting, and you just want to be able to add a light drizzle to each loaf. Fold in 1/4 cup of finely chopped crystallized ginger into the glaze. I source crystallized ginger from my local Savory Spice Shop, and I find many uses for it in baking. It is a very good partner for the flavor of cranberry in the bread.
Drizzle the glaze on just prior to serving.
Brandied Applesauce Bread
Makes 2 – 9 x 5 loaves
(note: place 1 cup of raisins in brandy to cover them and soak for a few hours prior to mixing the batter for this bread)
12 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups of sugar
2 large eggs
2 and 1/2 cups of Applesauce, unsweetened (I used organic, nothing in it but pure apples)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Ceylon or Saigon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground Chinese Ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Allspice or cloves
1 cup raisins, soaked in brandy for a few hours and then drained
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 2 – 9 x 5 loaf pans.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs and beat for a minute or two, and then add the applesauce and beat for just long enough to combine well.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in another bowl to aerate and distribute the ingredients well.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined. Do not over-mix.
Fold in the drained raisins and the walnuts, and notice the heavenly aroma of warm spices plus brandy!
Divide the batter between the 2 loaf pans and smooth the tops.
Bake until a tester placed in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes.
Cool in the pa for abut 10 minutes and ten turn them out onto a wire rack to cool.
Served warm, this bread does not require any embellishment!
This is a moist loaf with a bit of a finer, more tender texture than the Orange-Cranberry Bread. This bread has the flavor of those warm spices that we love so much in the Fall, and just a lovely hint of brandy. If you do not wish to use brandy, you can soak the raisins in apple juice or cider. This is one of my favorite quick sweet breads for Autumn!
I always add a savory buttermilk scone to my bread basket. It might be a Parmesan-Thyme Scone, or a Chai Spice Scone, or Gingerbread Scones My scones usually begin with a basic Buttermilk Scone recipe, so type “scones” into the search box on this site in the upper right hand corner, and you will see previous posts with recipes for scones.
Readers, share some of your favorite Thanksgiving Day food traditions, favorite breads, and, of course, do let me know whether you tried the recipes posted today and your outcomes! Tell me, how are your preparations for Thanksgiving Day going? There is a Comment box at the conclusion of each post.