Man, we love cranberries. The first year we moved here, D. went into a fish market to buy a bottle of mae ploy (why they carry mae ploy sauce, we don’t know, but we’re happy) and saw, serendipitously, that they had bags of Ocean Spray cranberries. He impulsively bought them out figuring we’d use them, and we did. He wandered over and asked them when they’d have them in this year… and they ordered a few bags just for him. He bought all of them.
We love our cranberries.
We’re not sure why they don’t grow them here — you’d think if you could grow blueberries, you could grow cranberries — but other than the brandy-laced sauce we found in Tesco the one time, it doesn’t seem like cranberries ever caught on here. Maybe it’s because the British lack a Thanksgiving holiday — Christmas simply isn’t enough time to relish the puckery sour-bitter berry that’s so, so tasty. And we do prefer ours kind of sour. Ocean Spray makes a canned cranberry sauce which most Americans cherish, but we’ve been making our very own tart relish with orange peels and spices for as long as we’ve been together.
But sauce isn’t all you can do with cranberries — T. has been known to eat cranberries …raw. And we also like them baked in bread. Sometimes we bake them into a yeast-raised bread, and we’ve found several quick bread recipes pairing cranberries with dates or figs — which seems weird, but we might try it. For today, though, we fell back on our old standard of pairing cranberry with orange, and this year tried out a new recipe for cranberry-orange loaf. At D’s work, the office manager asked him very seriously if he planned to take orders on them for Christmas this year. The answer is still no — but D’s willing to share the recipe!
Makes 2 large loaves or 6 mini loaves or 18 muffins
- 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cup orange juice
- 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 4 tablespoons grated orange zest
- 2 eggs, beaten or 1/4 c. ground flax seed plus 2 Tbsp. water
- 3 cups (One 12 ounce bag) fresh cranberries
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional. We opted not.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Simply sift together the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, then stir in the wet ingredients (including the combined flax seed and water, which sat and hydrated for three minutes, if you’re using an egg substitute). When your rather golden-yellow bread batter has combined, stir in the cranberries last of all.
This is a very, very, very sweet bread, and if you use orange juice that is sweetened, you will be making a sweet thing cloying. We juiced six oranges for our cup and a half of juice — which you may not want to do, as it is somewhat tedious. If you use orange juice from concentrate, consider cutting it with lemon juice, or water.
We topped this bread with two tablespoons of raw sugar, to give it a crunchy top. This is a really moist bread, so be prepared for a long, slow baking time. Full-sized loaves need 50-55 minutes to bake, small loaves 30-35 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean when they are done.
We had a tiny slice of bread right out of the oven, of course, and D. wasn’t impressed. He fussed abut the crumb, decided there were too many cranberries per slice, and was generally grumpy. T. advised him to wait until it had cooled all the way, and settled… and boy, were we glad we did. The moisture balanced out, the crumb was light, and the flavor was delicious. At the office, the boss once again refrained from getting his scone. The office manager took four pieces, and a coworker moved the tray to her desk, so she could “watch” it. Much more of a cake than a bread, this is flat out delicious, habit-forming, and provokes kind of frighteningly possessive reactions in people.
Good thing we’ve got five more bags of cranberries…