Friday, December 30, 2011

A Little Extra Something

Christmas baking is usually a time for me to cut loose and do some creating and experimening, but not this year.  My day job kept me busy right up to the last with nary a spare moment.  With professional obligations weighing so heavily Bella and I decided to stick with traditional family favorites:  My grandmother’s Gingerbread Cookies, my mother’s Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Raisin Oat Bars, and Brandied Almond Fruit Bars.  As we would be baking small batches, we needed to come up with a little extra something to deliver to the neighbors along with our holiday well wishes.  Epiphany--Pumpkin Cranberry Bread!

This past fall, when pumpkins were in short supply else where, a banner crop was harvested in Vermont--in spite of Hurricane Irene.  Our pumpkins were purchased from the neighbors who had a beautiful crop of both carving and eating pumpkins, of which they had several varieties.  Growers insist there are major differences between the eating varieties in flavor, texture, and sweetness, but truthfully I can detect no noticeable differences.  This year we purchased fewer and smaller pumpkins, and they yielded an incredible amount of puree.  With a freezer full of homemade pumpkin puree, a plentiful supply of fresh cranberries purchased at The Morse Farm, and a fast, easy, quantity-producing recipe for Pumpkin Cranberry Bread, it was decided that this would make the perfect additional something for the neighbors.

There is, however, a significant difference in flavor between home processed pumpkin puree and commercially canned.  If you’ve never made your own, I encourage you to try.  It is a very straightforward forward process, and worth the bit of time it takes. (Click here for the link to my post on how to make pumpkin puree.)  Once you eat homemade, it’s hard to go back to a commercially produced product.

Notes for this recipe:  Yes, the pans must be lined with parchment paper.  This is an essential step, skipping it will result in breads stuck to the pan.  Dried cranberries can be substituted for fresh, but the flavor and texture of the bread will suffer.  Orange juice can be substituted for apple cider.  Commercially canned pumpkin puree can be substituted for the fresh.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

3 c. flour

¼ tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated preferred)
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. mace
¼ tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. brown sugar
2 c. fresh pumpkin puree (or 15 oz. commercially canned)
4 large eggs
1 c. canola oil
½ c. apple cider
2 cups fresh cranberries

Grease 1 5x9” pan or 5 3x5” pans, line with parchment paper.  Grease and flour parchment paper and set pans aside.  Preheat oven to 350. 

Measure flour, spices, baking soda, and salt into a bowl, set aside. 

Measure oil and apple cider into a 2 c. glass measuring cup and set aside. Measure brown sugar into a large bowl.  Add the eggs and oil mixture and stir with a rubber spatula to combine.  Add the pumpkin puree and mix with the rubber spatula just to combine.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Fold in the cranberries. 

Scrape into the prepared pans.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove pans to wire racks.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  To remove breads from their pans, tip pans onto their sides and gently ease out the breads.  Carefully remove the parchment paper.  Gently turn breads back onto their bottoms and cool completely.

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