My pet peeve this time of year is Christmas creep. It was bad enough in prior years when Christmas displays started showing up in the few weeks before Thanksgiving, but this year Target was stocking holiday lights in September (they were next to the school supplies), and Macy's was putting up festive sweater displays in early October. I like candy canes and tinsel as much as the next person, but a two month long commercialized extravaganza of a season fraught with stress, expectations, and mountains of sugar is just more than I can handle.
So Mike and I have made a vow to not participate in the Christmas industrial complex until after Thanksgiving. There are exceptions for eggnog, since Mike inexplicably loves the stuff, and for Christmas gifts, provided they are not specifically holiday themed. So, if Mike wanted to buy me a black fleece headband to keep my ears toasty while I run, that would be acceptable (hint, hint, honey) but a red-and-green striped elf hat reading "Ho ho ho" across the front would be out (on so many levels). The vow also extends to food: since Caribou Coffee started hawking pumpkin beverages in August, I imagine the season of gingerbread lattes and peppermint mochas will be upon us before Thanksgiving. And although our local grocery store is already stocking mint chocolate Nestle morsels and candied fruit, my baking is going to be fall-themed for the next four weeks. Up first: cranberry bread, in an effort to use some of the cranberries that have been stashed in my freezer since last year. The cranberry bread recipe from Beard on Bread was one of my favorites from my Brooks Bakes Bread project, so I decided to try the cranberry-orange variation for after-service treats this Sunday.
The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of orange zest. My orange was the lamest one I've ever come across, zest-wise, and several minutes of concentrated grating effort yielded only a teaspoon of orange zest. The finished bread still had a subtle citrus flavor, but if you want more a more pronounced punch of orange, use more zest. Finally, this recipe makes a fairly substantial loaf of bread, sized more for a potluck than a family of four, so consider freezing half of it for later.
Adapted from the Cranberry Quick Bread recipe from Beard on Bread, by James Beard
- juice of one orange (about 1/2 cup)
- 3/4 cup milk, adjusted as needed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon orange zest, or use up to 3 tablespoons for a more intense orange flavor
- 1 1/4 fresh or frozen cranberries, halved
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease the short sides of a 9x5 loaf pan and line with a piece of wax paper large enough to completely cover the both long sides and the bottom of the pan.
Measure the orange juice in a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough milk to measure 1 1/4 total of the orange juice and milk mixture.
Combine the sugar and eggs in a medium bowl and mix until smooth. Add the prepared orange juice and milk mixture and melted butter and stir until combined. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix until just combined. Batter will be lumpy. Fold in the orange zest and cranberries and mix just until cranberries are evenly distributed.
Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Wrap leftover bread tightly in aluminum foil and store in refrigerator.