Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Quick Breads and Easy Gifts

I've baked a lot of bread in my life.
Loads of it.

It started in middle school and the trend has continued well into adulthood.
While I have made many types of bread over the years, I honestly don't make many quick breads.
The entire concept of working with yeast- that living, consuming, gas-producing, stuff- is just fun for me.

The one time of year I tend to get really into quick breads is over the holiday season.
Quick breads differ from yeast breads in that they typically use baking soda or baking powder as a leavening agent (the ingredient that causes them to rise) rather than yeast.  They can be sweet or savory (think cornbread or biscuits) but over the holidays I like to go a little nuts with the sweet varieties.  Not only are they delicious, but they're kind of perfect for giving as gifts.  Last year I found a great deal on a set of 50 mini loaf pans and baked mini loaves of that amazing, moist Eggnog Quick Bread I wrote about a few years ago.

It's seriously delicious, you should definitely try it.  Trust me.

In the picture from that original post you can see that I made full-size loaves, wrapped them in saran wrap, and decorated with ribbon.  What I love about using the mini loaf pans is that they fit perfectly in the same clear cellophane bags I used to package popcorn samples and favors in.  All you have to do is secure the bag with the accompanying twist tie and finish it off with a little ribbon curl and you have the perfect little holiday gift!
This year I had new recipes I wanted to try- surprise surprise, right?
Instead of the Eggnog Quick Bread I went with Cranberry Orange Bread  and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread.

They were both great, but I have to say that the Cranberry Orange Bread was my personal favorite.

We already know I have a thing for that flavor combination- remember those Cranberry Orange Sauced Sweet Potatoes I wrote about recently? The flavors of tart cranberry and sweet, citrusy orange just compliment each other so nicely.

The Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread was yummy too, my husband polished off the loaf I set aside for our family fairly quickly.  ;-)

It's really just your standard pumpkin bread with the addition of some chocolate...and what doesn't chocolate improve?  Exactly.  Chocolate has the magical ability to elevate pretty much everything.
Both recipes list walnuts as an optional ingredient.  While I can't stand walnuts and always sub pecans when they're called for I did leave nuts out completely simply because I was giving these loaves as gifts and I didn't want to cause any potential issues with allergies.  If I had been making these for just our family I think pecans would have been a sublime addition- especially to the pumpkin variety!

Whether you're simply looking for a tasty treat for yourself or a fun gift for others, I'd definitely recommend both of these soft, delicious, easy-to-make breads.  :-)

4 C flour
1 1/2 C sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 C butter, cut into small chunks
1 3/4 C orange juice
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 Tbsp grated orange zest
2 egg, beaten
2 C chopped fresh cranberries
1 C chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 7 mini loaf pans.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add orange juice, vegetable oil, orange zest, and egg; mix well. Fold in cranberries and walnuts. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

3 C white sugar
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1 C vegetable oil
2/3 C water
4 eggs
3 1/2 C  all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 7 mini loaf pans or 3 9x5 inch loaf pans.

2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs. Beat until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients, stirring until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips and nuts, pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake for 40 minutes for mini loaf pans or 1 hour for full-size loaves, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before removing from pans.

Note: To help prevent chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of the loaves (as they kind of did in mine as you can tell from the picture, oops!) make sure you use mini chocolate chips.  You can also toss the chocolate chips in a little flour before folding into the batter.  Giving the chips a light coating of cooking spray before tossing in flour can help make the flour stick to them well.

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