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Apricot Bread

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Apricot Bread.

My grandmother has been making this delicious recipe for Christmas afternoon gatherings for as long as I remember. Already a huge fan of apricots, this is by far my favorite thing she would serve. This year she was unable to make them, and so I offered to make them since it would also be a great recipe for this blog. They were so good that I made the recipe twice in one week over the holidays—and again last week since I needed to retake some photos since I over chopped the apricots on the second batch.

Apricot Bread.One thing that surprises most people about this recipe is how little fat is in it. If you opt to skip the frosting (which is mostly cream cheese), it comes down to 1 egg and 4 tablespoons of butter per loaf of bread and that’s it for the fat content. Tasting the bread you would never be able to tell it was this healthy. The apricot bits go a long way to giving the bread some body and depth along with a nice tangy zing. I really don’t care about things being low fat, but I mention this since I know there are many who do. The frosting has a great orange flavor thanks to some orange zest and is a must in my opinion.

I made a batch for a New Year’s Eve party and some of the guests were so enamored with these that they insisted that I sell the bread to Starbucks. I brought the latest batch into work and people were genuinely surprised at how good they were. Some were expecting a dry fruitcake given the appearance of apricot bits and were pleasantly surprised to find how moist and delicious these are.

Although it may look like a bit of work from the abridged set of photos below, the use of a food processor goes a long way towards making these pretty easy to make.

Ingredients for making Apricot Bread.

Hydrate 11 ounces of dried apricots in 2 cups of water. Heat over medium heat until water is simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let soak.

Combine 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of butter and 2 cups of sugar in food processor and process until smooth.

Strain the apricots and reserve 1/2 cup of the water.

Pour 1 cup of orange juice to into food processor with 1/2 cup of the apricot water you strained.

Combine 4 cups of flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 teaspoons of salt and stir until blended.

Dump dry ingredients into food processor and pulse until just blended.

Add hydrated apricots and carefully pulse processor only just until pieces are chopped.

Add 1 cup of chopped walnuts and fold until blended.

Grease two bread pans and line botoms with greased wax paper. Non-stick spray with flour works great.

Spoon dough evenly into each greased bread pan and let rest for 20 minutes. You can preheat oven to 350° F while it rests.

Bake in 350° F oven for 55 – 60 minutes. Immediately remove from pans, remove wax paper and transfer loaves onto wire rack to cool.

Cream together 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of orange zest.

Beat frosting until smooth.

Once bread has cooled, slice and spread frosting on one side of two slices before pairing to make a sandwich. Serve slightly chilled.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and photo gallery can be found on the Apricot Bread recipe page.

Cranberry Bread

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Cranberry Bread.

I was telling a coworker about my candymaking and baking a couple weeks ago and she mentioned that she had a great recipe for cranberry bread that was a Thanksgiving staple in her family for many years. My grandmother makes truly wonderful apricot bread during the holidays (Yes, I’m getting the recipe), so I was really interested in this cranberry bread. She emailed it to me and off I went to get some fresh cranberries.

Cranberry Bread.When it came time to make the recipe, I noticed an unusual amount of orange juice in the recipe (it was called twice), so I went online to look for the recipe, since she said it was from an old cookbook entitled, Cranberry Thanksgiving, by Wende and Harry Devlin. This book appears to be out of print, but you can still find it online at a premium. A quick search on the web quickly revealed that this is a popular recipe, and I quickly found the error in the recipe and proceeded to make it with confidence.

I was pleased to be able to use my standard-sized food processor, which otherwise gets used maybe once every couple years. The recipe is super easy to make, and I was pleased I could reuse the unwashed food processor bowl for chopping the cranberries. The smell of this bread baking is wonderful and perfect for the holidays. The finished bread is delicious with a slightly dense texture—like banana bread—and nearly as moist. If you really love cranberries you can omit the golden raisins and double the cranberries, but I decided to play it safe my first time around with this recipe.

Ingredients for making Cranberry Bread.

Combine 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and mix until blended.

Add 1/4 cup of chilled butter to flour mixture and pulse in food processor until butter bits are pea sized.

Use a microplane zester to remove 1 teaspoon of zest from an orange.

Add the zest, 1 beaten egg and 3/4 cup of orange juice to flour mixture, folding in liquid until evenly moist.

Add 1 1/2 cups of golden raisins.

Add 1 1/2 cups of chopped, fresh cranberries.

Spoon mixture into greased bread pan.

Bake in 350° F oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool a couple minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and photo gallery can be found on the Cranberry Bread recipe page.

Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Monday, November 5th, 2007

I can’t really say that I have made a lot of muffins in my life. In fact, this is one of the few recipes I have made that—apart from the oven—does not involve some kind of appliance. When I laid out all the ingredients for this muffin recipe for the first picture below, I realized that there were a lot of ingredients in this muffin. Counting the eggs once, there are seventeen ingredients needed to make these muffins. Fortunately, I already have most of these ingredients thanks to the remarkable similarity of this recipe with molasses softies cookies. Who knew making muffins would be so easy?

When I first made these muffins, we thought they tasted great, but it seemed that they could use just a hint of orange to bring out a fresher flavor from the canned pumpkin. A little orange zest in the second batch and it was just what these muffins needed. Moist and delicious, these muffins have a nice balance of spices that isn’t overpowering or heavy. The smell of these muffins baking really says that fall is here. A little pumpkin pie muffin is the perfect snack for raking leaves in the yard.

Ingredients for making Pumpkin Pie Muffins.

Combine 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and cloves each, 1/2 teaspoon salt and ginger each, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.

Combine 2 eggs, 3/4 cup canned pumpkin, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla and orange zest each, and 3 tablespoons molasses in a large bowl.

Mix wet ingredients thoroughly until smooth.

Make a well in center of dry ingredients and gently fold in wet ingredients until just blended.

Once batter is just blended, fold in 3/4 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts.

Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 of the way to top with batter. An ice cream scoop works nicely.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes in 400° F oven or until toothpick come out clean.

Let muffins rest for 2 minutes in muffin pan before transferring to cooling rack.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Pumpkin Pie Muffin recipe page.