Fruit and nut breads - good for giving and getting

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

The beauty of quick fruit or nut breads is that they keep well, stay moist for days, and can be frozen successfully. Besides the familiar banana-nut bread, there are many kinds to choose from.

Such breads are similar to a cake and quite as rich, but denser and moister. They are good plain, simply iced, or glazed and decorated to fit a holiday theme.

When holidays become rushed, it is nice to know that a loaf, or two or three, is at hand for unexpected guests, a quick dessert, or even for gift giving.

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You will enjoy the ease of making them, too, when time is at a premium. When you are having an oven meal, slide in a quick bread to enjoy later.

Be sure the breads are completely cool before slicing or wrapping. In plastic wrap or aluminum foil, they will stay fresh for a week or more. They freeze well , too. Walnut Cranberry Bread 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup brown sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup orange juice 1 egg, slightly beaten 2 tablespoons butter, melted 1 cup cranberries, chopped coarsely 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix together all dry ingredients except nuts. In another bowl, stir together orange juice, egg, and butter.

Add to dry mixture. Mix until ingredients are moistened, then stir in cranberries and nuts. Pour into greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.

Bake at 325 degrees F. 55 or 60 minutes, or until toothpick tests clean. Strawberry Festival Loaf 1 3/4 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup sugar 2 large eggs 1/2 cup oil 1 9-or 10-ounce package frozen strawberries, sweetened, undrained 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In small bowl, stir together flour, soda, and sugar. In large bowl, beat eggs and oil together well. Add strawberries with juice and beat lightly at low speed until berries are just slightly broken up. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed, or by hand, until batter is smooth, with bits of strawberries still whole. Fold in nuts.

Pour into greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour, or until it tests done. Raisin Pumpkin Bread 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/3 cup margarine 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin or squash 1/3 cup pineapple juice 1/2 cup raisins

Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In separate bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well. Stir in pumpkin or squash.

Add flour mixture alternately with pineapple juice; mix well. Stir in raisins. Bake in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour, or until it tests done. Cool. Wrap. Pineapple Pecan Bread 3/4 cup brown sugar 3 tablespoons butter, softened 2 eggs 2 cups flour, sifted 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Mix flour, baking powder, and soda together.

Add dry mixture to creamed mixture alternately with pineapple, including juice. Mix well; fold in nuts.

Pour into greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour, or until it tests done. Cool and wrap. Apricot Sunshine Bread 2/3 cup dried apricots, simmered in water until tender, drained, cooled, and chopped 2 cups flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 1 beaten egg 1 cup milk 3 tablespoons butter, melted 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Sift flour and baking powder together; stir in sugar and nuts. Using a rotary beater, or by hand, beat egg, milk, butter, apricots, and vanilla together. Add to dry ingredients, mixing only until moistened.

Spoon into greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350 degrees F., or until it tests done with tester or pick. Cool in pan, then remove and wrap.

All of these breads are good without any icing. However, you can dribble a light glaze over the top while loaf is still warm by mixing a few tablespoons of confectioners' sugar with enough water to bring it to spreading consistency.

Or, while loaf is warm, spread some jelly, honey, or syrup over the top.

Decorate if you like with colored candied cherries; whole nutmeats; or colored sugar, added before glaze sets.

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