Cranberry-Pecan Quick Bread

This turned out to be a bit of a labor intensive “quick” bread but lovely to eat. But first a few thoughts.

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Clearly, this is not a picture of the bread!

We are having a major snow storm so I did not have to go to work this day. It is a wonder to be “non-essential” and yet so much expectations and pressure at work to do more with less as each day goes by.

It will be a good day to try a new recipe or bake something yummy. But I have not been too inspired lately. The political situation has taken over my brain!!

In honor of the Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl commercial celebrating immigrants I got out my Anheuser-Busch Great Food Great Beer cookbook to find something to make. I could cook or bake. There are some great recipes in there! But I did not have one or two essential ingredients for some of the main dishes. What? You say. When did that ever stop you? What can I say? There was a lovely gingerbread cake recipe but it called for 1 1/2 cups of butter and I thought that was a lot of butter when trying to lose some weight.

So, it being winter in New England, I got out my The New England Table cookbook to find something. There’s a lovely lemon pudding cake and a cranberry-pecan quick bread. Guess which one I chose? Although I may bake the other as well. Wait and see!

I had everything for this recipe except the buttermilk. But it is so easy to make your own sour milk. And just because I had no milk doesn’t stop me either. I used diluted half-and-half. I also thought I would make it healthier by substituting half the flour with whole wheat pastry flour. I also toast the pecans in a dry skillet on top of the stove instead of in the oven. And I got to use my mortar and pestle to grind cardamom seeds. And that aroma was heavenly!

  • 2 cups flour; I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup unbleached all-purpose
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom; this was two pods
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk; I put a teaspoon of lemon juice in the measuring cup (you can also use vinegar), added 1/3 cup half-and-half, and added water to the 2/3 cup mark
  • finely grated zest and juice of one large navel orange; I zested a fresh orange but used 1/4 cup prepared orange juice; I wanted to eat the orange for my morning snack!
  • 1 extra large egg; mine was just large
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries; oops! the recipe calls for these to be coarsely chopped; I put them in whole
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped; I did remember to chop these

The labor intensity of this quick bread comes about for toasting the pecans, grinding the cardamom seeds, and making the buttermilk. Okay, that may not sound like a lot, but I did not read the entire recipe ahead of time and so scrambled to get these things done while putting together the batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter a loaf pan, standard size of 8 1/2 x 4 inches, and dust with flour. (My standard loaf pans are actually 9 x 5 inches).

Sift or whisk the first 6 dry ingredients together and set aside. Mix the egg with the sugar until it is thick and yellow. Mix the butter, buttermilk, orange zest and juice in a small bowl. (This I forgot to do and had to scramble to put these in together but not as a mixture). Blend this mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. Then add the flour just til combined. Stir in the cranberries and nuts. Spread in prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. My oven took only the 55 minutes. Test bread with toothpick or cake tester.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out of pan onto wire rack to cool.

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I, of course, did not wait for this to cool completely before trying a slice. When cutting warm bread remember to hold the loaf and gently cut with a serrated bread knife.

This was yummy. Not so good for a reduced calorie count for snacking as it is hard to eat just one slice!

Just because baking is a science, doesn’t mean that substitution and innovation results in disaster. Once you know how to bake you can have the confidence to change things up a bit. That may be ingredients but also technique. Happy baking to all!

Pecan Tarts: possibly utter failure!

In the past I have made a Pecan Pie Bar found in a magazine ad recipe. They are very well received when I make them. They have more of a traditional pecan pie topping made with corn syrup. This recipe for Pecan Tarts I have found among my mother’s recipe cards. It appealed to me because it does not use corn syrup in the filling. These are the cute little pecan pie-looking cookies. They are also known as Pecan Tassies and there are all kinds of recipes all over the internet. The newspaper clipping that my mom saved adds a note at the end: “By all means spray the tins with Pam for easy removal.”

A year or so ago I purchased a set of mini muffin tins to replace the ones I had that were beginning to rust. These cost me all of a $1 at a tag sale, (Garage Sale for those of us from the Midwest.) This will be the first time use of these pans.

This is a cream cheese short-crust filled with a pecan butterscotch/caramel filling. A short crust is made without a leavening agent. For the crust:

  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 6 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2 cups flour

Blend butter and cream cheese and add in flour. Work with hands to bring together as a dough, then chill. The recipe clipping does not say how long to chill so I will put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

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I think I have come up with a nifty way to shape these into the muffin tins: the small end of my mortar, or is it the pestle. Be right back while I “google” it. ….(a few seconds passing)… It’s the pestle!

I also decide to divide the dough into exactly 36 pieces. The recipe said it made 3-4 dozen.

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Now for the filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

I mix this all together with my KitchenAid. Did I tell you the story of this Mixer? It is one I will always cherish. It was a time when I was going through my divorce, being a single parent with middle school aged children, working per diem, and just trying to adjust. Suddenly there appeared a large box delivered to my door. This was the KitchenAid Mixer. Just there. It wasn’t my birthday or any other special day. It came from my brother-in-law and sister. When I called her she said it was her husband’s idea as he thought I could use something nice. Bless him! So whenever I think of one of the most thoughtful things that someone has done for me, this is the event that comes to mind.

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The recipe clipping said to sprinkle the pecans in the tart shells, add some filling, then sprinkle more pecans on top.  I just put all the pecans in the mixture.

Bake this for 15 minutes at 350, reduce heat to 250 and bake another 10 minutes.

Ugly, ugly, ugly!

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I clearly filled them too full. I use a soup spoon to lift them out of the tins after running a knife around the edges. They are underbaked. The Great British Baking Show judges would be very disappointed and I would not get to be Star Baker! (Possibly the soggy bottom!)

I continue with the third pan after scrubbing it and spraying the entire top with cooking spray. I try not to fill these as full. Meanwhile I rack my brain to figure out how to save the first two pans. I decide to put them back in the oven to continue baking for 5 minutes. This may be salvation.

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the bottoms are now baked

Second batch looks a little prettier, or less ugly, whichever your perspective. I also put them back in the oven for five more minutes on a baking sheet. Here they are, for better or for worse. They taste like pecan pies.

So this was an experience for sure. If using this recipe again I will divide it into 48 pieces, use a teaspoon to fill the tart shells, and leave them in the oven at 350 for the full 25 minutes, if not 30.

I like pecan pie. Maybe my next effort will be a cranberry-pecan pie, or the buttermilk pecan pie. That is a good one as it has the crunch of the pecans with the creaminess of a custard.

Happy Baking to all, and be sure to have fun in the kitchen!