Happy Holidays!

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January 4th, 2010

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  The snow is starting to fall, the decorations have gone up and the shopping rush has begun.

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to get everyone together in the kitchen and make the house smell like the season. I’ve come up with a quick and easy recipe that you can make with your kids, a novice chef – just about anyone.

This Cranberry Apple Pecan Loaf is a wonderful breakfast or anytime bread, and this lightly sweetened treat is loaded with nutrition. Fiber rich apples are used in place of oil. Cranberries are high in antioxidants and have been shown to help raise good cholesterol and lower bad. Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals and can also help lower cholesterol.

And nature’s sweetener, pure Canadian maple syrup, contains 100% of the Daily Value of manganese, which is an important factor in energy production and antioxidant defenses and necessary for normal brain and nerve function. A portion of maple syrup (one-quarter cup) contains 34% of the Daily Value of riboflavin, which aids in the metabolic process and 11% of the Daily Value of zinc, which is essential for a healthy immune system.

Using applesauce cuts the prep time substantially. Warm toasted pecans and the caramel-y undertones of maple syrup are the secret ingredients and the reason there is so much depth of flavor in this bread. Their regal characteristics pair so beautifully with the sweet tart nature of the cranberries and the bittersweet perfume of the winter orange zest. Applesauce lends a rich pudding-like quality to the finished bread.

If you love to give homemade gifts from your own kitchen, Cranberry Apple Pecan Loaf is perfect this time of year. The red cranberries are especially festive. To prepare the bread as a gift for someone you love, wrap the mostly cooled loaf in a lovely kitchen towel and tie it with a bright red satin bow. Place some decorative straw in an inexpensive basket with a few fragrant pine needles and a couple of pinecones from your yard if you have them. Place the loaf of bread over the straw and tuck in an elegant jar of maple syrup.

Cranberry Apple Pecan Loaf

[Shortcut] Measure out dry ingredients ahead of time, lay out the rest of the ingredients and all your tools.

[Morph] This wholesome bread is wonderful in the morning toasted or served as a light dessert à la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or lemon sherbet.

Yield: Makes one 9 – inch loaf. 8 – 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3  cup fresh orange juice
  • finely grated zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk plus 2 teaspoons
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup 100% pure Canadian maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (or up to a cup if you like)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease bottom of 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. In a small non-reactive bowl, stir together orange juice, zest, buttermilk, butter, applesauce and egg.

In a large non-reactive mixing bowl, sift together, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Using a rubber spatula, stir wet ingredients into dry just until wet. Add cranberries and pecans and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.

Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan. Bake 20 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350° and cook until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes more. Cool in pan ten minutes, then turn loaf out onto wire rack and cool completely before serving.

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