I have been making cranberry quick bread every fall and winter for as long as I can remember. The first time I made it, I followed an excellent recipe in Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, which was my bread bible for over a decade. But eventually, what seemed perfect to begin with began to beg for an update.
I felt the bread needed a little tanginess, a little additional tenderness, and a more pronounced orange flavor. The addition of yogurt added both tanginess and tenderness. But no matter how much orange zest and juice I added to the formula, it still didn’t capture the essence of a fresh, juicy orange. Reluctantly, I gave up, thinking the quest was failed and over. I actually stopped making cranberry bread, much to the bewilderment of MauiJim who loves it with a passion.
Then, lo and behold, a product was introduced into the world called Boyajian Orange Oil – Pure – 5 Oz (plus pure lemon oil and pure lime oil). What a striking difference it makes in this bread and in everything to which I add it. It doesn’t get more orange than this.
You may have to call around in your area to see who carries it. I typically find it in the baking aisle of upscale markets. It is worth going out of your way to obtain a bottle of this magical elixir. And although you will be SHOCKED by the price, gulp and pay it. Pure flavoring oils are used in much smaller amounts than extracts, so a 5-ounce bottle will likely last you for years.
I like making this bread in small loaf pans so that we can eat one right away and freeze a couple for later, or give as gifts. Wondrously, the bread is actually better in all ways the day after it is baked. It is a festive and welcome accompaniment to the holiday festivities that begin this week with Thanksgiving. Treat yourself!
Cranberry Orange Yogurt Pecan Bread
This cranberry bread is especially tender because of the softening effect the yogurt has on the gluten in the flour, and it has an appealing acid tang as well. This loaf is as appropriate for breakfast as for afternoon tea, especially during the holiday season.
vegetable oil spray
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup plain nonfat yogurt
¾ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, cool room temperature
½ teaspoon orange oil or 1 teaspoon orange extract
finely grated zest of 1 large orange (2-3 tablespoons)
1 cup fresh cranberries, each cut in half
1 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1.Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven with plenty of room above it and preheat the oven to 350°.
2.Coat an 8½- x 4½- x 2½-inch (6-cup capacity) loaf pan (or three 2-cup capacity loaf pans) with vegetable spray, and then a light layer of flour, tapping out any excess flour that does not cling.(Or simply spray with oil and flour baking spray.)
3.In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Reserve.
4.In another mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt and orange juice. Reserve.
5.Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with sugar until pale and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
6.Add the eggs gradually, beating continuously to incorporate. Then add the orange oil and zest and mix briefly to incorporate.
7.Using the slowest speed of the mixer, add the flour mixture in three increments, alternating with the addition of 2 increments of the yogurt-orange juice mixture. The last addition should be the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients by folding together with a large spatula.
8.While folding, add the reserved cranberries and pecans, and incorporate gently and quickly. The batter should be well combined, but do not over mix or the bread will not be tender.
9.Spoon the batter immediately into the prepared pan, filling no more than three fourths full, level the top with a flexible spatula, set in the center of a preheated 350° oven, and bake for about 55-65 minutes. (Smaller loaves require about 40-45 minutes of baking.) The internal temperature of the loaf when tested at the center with a thin instant-read thermometer should read 180° when done. The traditional wooden skewer probe recommended so often as a test for doneness will still be a bit sticky at this point. Over baking this bread makes it dry.
10.Remove from the oven, let settle in the pan for 10 minutes, and then gently turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Do Ahead If well-wrapped to prevent moisture loss, this bread will keep at room temperature for a day or two; or longer in the freezer. It actually improves in texture and taste after a day or so or proper storage.
Makes one medium loaf; about sixteen 1/2-inch slices.