It’s the height of baking season. Flour and sugar are frequent guests on my counter, remnants of the last pie, cake or bread that is now baking in the oven. All are wonderful but it’s hard to beat the aroma of bread baking in your oven. And this bread is particularly special. Loaded with fresh cranberries, the juice and zest from fresh oranges and crunchy toasted pecans – each adding a note of taste and fragrance!
Southern cooks have baked quick breads for years. They are great to have on hand for brunch gatherings, light desserts or snacks and make wonderful gifts for friends and family. Quick breads are just that… quick to make, requiring no yeast to rise or kneading of dough. Somewhat of a cake baked in a loaf pan. With any quick bread, always take care to not over mix the batter or your bread will be tough.
A copy of this recipe was originally given to me by one of my dearest friends. She received it from a lifelong friend of hers carrying on that Southern tradition of sharing favorite recipes. In an unexpected twist, I recently found a similar copy among my Mom’s many recipes. Great Southern minds!
This recipe for Cranberry Orange Bread can be mixed by hand. The butter is cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter. (If you don’t have a pastry cutter you can also use a fork to cut the butter into the flour.) When using oranges for cooking, I head to navel or Valencia oranges. They have a consistently sweet flavor and lend that orange essence you’re after in the finished result. Some tips when picking oranges or any citrus. You want firm fruit with thinner skin. Check the weight of an orange by simply holding the fruit in your hand, it should feel heavy for its size. For measuring, 1 large orange will yield about 1/3 cup juice and 2 teaspoons zest.
Beaming with bright cranberries, golden pecans and surrounded by orange-scented goodness, this bread will usher in December in delicious fashion!
Cranberry Orange Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup butter, cut into pieces and at room temperature
¾ cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 extra-large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange oil, optional but enhances the orange notes
2 cups chopped fresh cranberries, measured after chopping
½ cup chopped toasted pecans
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt, then add the pieces of butter.
Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is broken up into small pieces.
In a small bowl whisk together the orange juice, the orange zest, the vanilla, orange oil and the egg.
Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
Toss in the chopped cranberries and the toasted pecans, gently fold into the batter.
Divide the batter between two small loaf pans (8” x 4” x 2”) that have been sprayed with a cooking spray. (You can also bake one loaf in a large pan, 9″ x 5″ x 3″. Adjust the baking time to 45-50 minutes.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden and the bread tests done. Let the bread cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then turn the loaves out onto a baking rack. While the bread cools make the glaze.
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps
¼ cup fresh orange juice
½ teaspoon orange zest
In a small bowl whisk together the powdered sugar, orange juice and orange zest until the glaze is smooth.
Spoon the glaze over the tops of the bread while it is still slightly warm, using some or all of the glaze to suit your taste.
The delightful smells and tastes of the holiday season!