Did you know that only three fruits are indigenous to North America? It’s true – blueberries, Concord grapes and the humble and oft maligned cranberry. All three were used as fabric dyes because of their intense pigments and the cranberry was used by Native Americans as a bartering tool among other things. Pirates (ARGH!) carried them on the seas to prevent scurvy. Being a member of the citrus family, ounce for ounce they pack more of a Vitamin C wallop than any other fruit. For years, many of us only ate them once a year in cranberry sauce, but Ocean Spray has done a great job of teaching us how to use them in other ways. We all know Craisins now and who hasn’t had a Cape Cod at the bar now and then? Besides the fact that they are good for you, they taste great when treated properly and fall and winter are the perfect time to enjoy them fresh.
Several years ago Friend Debbie gave me a loaf of Cranberry Bread that was so good I HAD to have the recipe. The recipe shared here is her recipe clarified with expanded directions for novice bakers.
A note about cranberries: To harvest cranberries, the “bogs” are flooded with water because they float. There is a small air pocket in the center that allows them to float. When prepping cranberries for cooking, swirl them in a bowl of water to wash them. The ones that float are fresh and delicious; toss out the ones that sink. Be careful when dumping them into the bowl too. They bounce!
A few tips about baking quick breads
- When adding the dry ingredients, don’t overmix the dough or you will end up with a tasty, but tough brick instead of tender deliciousness
- Like all recipes, get everything measured out first so the assembly and mixing is quick and easy
- Because I like pecans and walnuts equally, they are mostly interchangeable for me. They have about the same weight ad mass, so measurement conversion isn’t necessary
- My step mom Nettie always said quick breads were better the following day after having been wrapped in foil overnight (moister). Dad says they shouldn’t ever cool down completely.
Debbie Thomsen’s Cranberry Nut Bread
Makes 2 loaves, one to eat and one to gift
4 C flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp fine sea salt
3 large oranges
2 C sugar
¼ C Crisco®
2 large eggs
1 – 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 C walnuts coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease 2 standard sized loaf pans (I use Pampered Chef™ Stoneware loaf pans and Baker’s Joy™ baking spray).
Whisk together the first 4 ingredients and set aside.
Zest the oranges until you have 2 Tbsp of finely grated zest (usually 1 orange will net 1 Tbsp of zest). Juice the oranges for 1-1/2 C fresh orange juice. It’s easier to zest first and juice second. Remember, the zest is the orange part of the peel only. If you hit the white, you are getting into the pith and that cooks up bitter.
With an electric mixer on medium high, cream Crisco®, orange zest and sugar. Scrape the bowl down as necessary. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed and slowly add the orange juice and mix until well combined.
Gently mix in the flour mixture. Then add the cranberries and nuts just until combined. DO not over mix. There may be a few lumps other than the berries and nuts and that’s ok. The batter will be very thick.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 50 – 60 minutes (depending on your pans) until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool 15 minutes in the pans before turning out.