Cranberry-Orange Ricotta Bread

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I love a good quick bread recipe as much as the next person. This one was shared by a friend from the past, Nancy. We went to school together from elementary to high school. I never saw her after graduation. I never saw most of the my friends after graduation. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to say in touch. We had a black phone anchored to the wall, with a short cord, and the USPS. Nancy and I reconnected on FB. I’ve discovered she is an incredible baker. I adore her baking postings. She is talented, and oh so creative in all aspects of her life. I’d call her a crafter, but that would be an insult to her artistic abilities! This recipe is one that Nancy recently posted.

With the threat of snow and miserable weather, I printed the recipe and ran to the store. Where I forgot to buy the cranberries. So, I improvised and used dried cranberries. I didn’t want to fight the crowds at two stores, so I skipped the trip to Whole Foods for the “good ricotta”. I deeply regret that decision to this day.  I baked the bread with these substitute ingredients. It came out good. I knew it could be great. The next weekend I found frozen cranberries and my Calabro Ricotta. This time, the bread was fantastic. The quality of ingredients makes a difference!

When I decided to bake this, I started pulling out my hand-mixer. I noticed this recipe was mixed and folded by hand! Are you thinking, what I’m thing? I can make this early in the morning without waking anybody. No? I baked this in 4 mini loaf pans. This is my idea of portion control. Ha! It’s nice to freeze these mini loaves, wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in plastic bags. It makes a great gift if you’re visiting a worthy recipient. Don’t forget to label them. I tend to have a couple of different breads in the freezer. You want to know what you’re handing off to your friends!

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups + 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour; divided

1 3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup ricotta cheese; preferably whole milk

1/4 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs + 1 egg yolk

2 tsp. grated orange zest

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

 

Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1-2 tbsp. orange juice

1 tsp. orange zest

pinch of salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large loaf pan, line with parchment paper. I also like to use 4 mini loaf pans, also using parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, sour cream, sugar, eggs, egg yolk, orange zest, and vanilla. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the 1 2/3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix to combine. Set aside.

Chop the cranberries and toss them with remaining flour. I chop them into quarters, unless the berries are big. I don’t defrost the frozen cranberries. Chopping them frozen is actually easy. Toss the remains 2 tbsp. of flour with cranberries. This helps prevent them from sinking in the pan while the bread is baking.

Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the oil into the batter, folding from the bottom and up. You want to fold in air. Make sure you get the bottom of the bowl with the spatula.  Mix until it’s all incorporated. Fold in the flour coated cranberries

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. I’ve been know to use a skewer. Use what you have! If you are using mini loaf pans, reduce the baking time. I start checking at around 30 minutes. They start to get a little golden brown coloring on the tops.

Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling wrap to cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk together the ingredients until smooth. Add more juice for a thinner glaze, and more sugar to thicken it up. I like to put the glaze on while the bread is still warm. I put a cookies sheet under the cooling rack to catch the glaze. This makes clean-up easier!  Before you wrap this to store in the fridge or freezer, let the glaze cool and harden. You don’t have to glaze it, but WHY NOT?

NOTE: I have found this bread bakes better in mini-loaves. It’s very dense and it takes a little longer to bake in a loaf pan. They both taste great, but the mini-loaf comes out a little better.

Zucchini chini bo bini…….

‘Tis the season of zucchini. It you grow it, you know it! If you have an abundance of this veggie you are looking for ways to cook it. I suggest baking it. It’s still zucchini, right? I like this recipe because you don’t need a lot of it. I’m not growing anything this season and it’s rather liberating. When I make my tortellini soup, year round, I buy my zucchini. I’m ok with that. This recipe calls for 1 medium zucchini. I use a Pyrex one-cup measuring cup. Sometimes it’s more than one zucchini. It just depends. Snack on what you don’t need.  I opted to make muffins for portion control. If I cut a slice from a loaf, it’s usually several inches thick. My eye-hand coordination sometimes is off. Oops! You can even put in chocolate chips. I’m a purist and only use raisins. Soak them in warm water to plump them up. (insert Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) You need to soak up some of the moisture from the zucchini. After I grate it with a box grater, I place several layers of paper towels in a shallow bowl and place the zucchini on top, while I get the other ingredients ready. The original recipe says to blot at the zucchini. I don’t blot.

Let’s preheat our ovens!

1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

OPTIONAL – once cup of semi-sweet chocolate, raisins or nuts

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

1/2 cup of light or dark brown sugar packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup of grated zucchini (about one medium)

To make one loaf of bread, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 X 5 loaf pan. Instructions for muffins will follow.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and raisins together is a large bowl. I suggest replacing your baking powder and soda every few months. They are inexpensive enough to replace. You need them fresh, and in the summer they can absorb moisture. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, brown  and granulated sugars, egg, vanilla and zucchini.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Gently stir until combined. Do not overmix. Batter will be semi-thick.

Spread the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Baking times vary so check on it. Remove bread from oven and place on a wire rack. Let cool completely before removing from pan and slicing. I like to put a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan. I cut it so it comes a little over the top of the pan and is the narrow width of the pan. If it’s too long, it could brown and have a not-so-fresh-smell. This prevents leaving half of the loaf in the pan. Cooling is still required. This bread can be stored at room temperature, covered, for up to 5 days. Who are we kidding? Really.

For muffins, grease a 12-count muffin pan or line with liners. Prepare batter. Spoon batter into each liner, filling each all the way to top (sometimes). Bake the muffins for 5 minutes at 425 degrees. Keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 13-16 minutes. Test with a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin.  It should come out clean. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to wire rack to continue cooling. Or, if you’re like me, leave in pan until completely cooled, give yourself a headslap because you forgot about the muffins, and place them in a container. Slip them inconspicuously into the freezer. Pull out for a work snack!

You should have at least one serving of vegetables a day! The original recipe is here if you need pictures. I forgot to take pictures even after the headslap but I did a quick sample. Squeeze your eyes closed and picture a muffin. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Call it what you’d like, but it’s delicious!

 

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A few weeks ago I was browsing through my recipe box. Do people even keep recipe boxes anymore? Honestly, I don’t think I’ve added anything to mine since the 90’s. My mother found it when she working at an elementary school. It’s a distressed looking stained wooden box. In it is a treasure of clippings of home recipes from newspapers and recipes from friends and things I grew up eating. That’s how it was done a million years ago. People exchanged recipes or submitted recipes to the newspaper in hopes of sharing their family recipes. There were no chefs writing for newspapers or magazines, nor where there cooking shows on TV except Julia Childs. It was all print media back in the day.

Nowadays, I find most things on the internet. I print them, and put them in a nice pile with hundreds of other recipes, waiting to be gently placed in a clear plastic sleeve and then organized in a three-ring binder. Some may call this pile a fire hazard, others, opportunities! It could happen. I need a snow day!

I scribbled across the lined note card “Irish Bread”. In no way is it Irish bread. I don’t know where I found it, but it is delicious. It’s more like a quick bread or a tea bread. The sprinkled sparkling sugar on top gives it a nice crunch. The pre-soaked raisins add some moisture. I have some cooking right now and cannot wait for a warm slice with a little bit of butter. Pure heaven.

Let’s cook!

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

milk

1 cup raisins

1 tbsp. caraway seeds (optional)

Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, crack 2 large eggs (don’t break them up) and then fill with milk to the 1-cup measure line. Sometimes when you’re mixing, you need to add a splash more milk because large eggs aren’t always the same. Many things can impact baking such as humidity and different brands of flour.

Add the milk/egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and sugar. Mix until batter is combined and thick. Add the raisins and caraway seeds if using. I like to soak the raisins in warm water to plump them up, then drain the water before adding them to the mixture. Keep in mind, this is a very thick batter. If it’s impossible to mix, add a splash more of milk.

Pour mixture into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle sugar on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Start checking it at 45 minutes. Oven temperatures vary as do pan sizes. A toothpick should come out clean when it’s done. Cool pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Loosen bread with a knife and then let the bread cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

Let it cool, if you can, before serving!