It's well into finals week for me here. I am now, finally, past the half way mark...3 down 2 to go. It's amazing how exhausting, and mentally draining, sitting for hours on end can become. Especially when you're running on four to five hours of sleep per night. The only consolation is, at the end of this I get to go home for a nice long break and not think about anything remotely scholarly for over a month.
The biggest problem for me while I'm studying is staying motivated. It's hard to think about the same thing for hours on end without getting distracted. My solution to this problem? I reward myself. Study for x amount of time and then you have y amount of time to do whatever you want. It seems to work...sometimes. Of course then there are the times when I decide that I'm going to reward myself by cooking up something scrumptious. Of course, this means that I have to spend a few hours figuring out what that something scrumptious is going to be. The point of all this is that, my something scrumptious yesterday was this marvelous quickbread.
For some reason, this summer I got the urge to bake with fresh cranberries. I know, weird. The was, however, that no matter how hard I looked, I could not for the life of me find fresh cranberries anywhere (ok, I found one bag of frozen cranberries for fifteen dollars but decided that it wasn't worth it). Apparently I am the only one who wants cranberries in the middle of summer. Since I couldn't make my recipes then, I had no choice but to shelve them until cranberry season arrived.
The recipe for this bread was inspired by the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray bag of cranberries. Of course I tweaked it around a bit. Rather than simply "Orange-Cranberry bread" I made Orange Cranberry Spice bread. Also, rather than use walnuts (as suggested) I opted for the more distinctive flavor of toasted almonds (so really it's orange-cranberry-almond-spice bread). Finally, in regards to the sugar, I added 3/4 cup directly into the batter while the remaining 1/4 cup I tossed with the diced cranberries and added in at the end. The result was all that is quintessentially fall and the holiday season baked into one amazingly delicious loaf. This bread is so good, it is almost beyond words. It has a sweet, spicy, citrus-y flavor punctuated throughout with the sour bite of cranberries and the earthy crunch of toasted almonds. Tossing the cranberries with the sugar before hand took the edge off of their sourness without masking it completely. The almonds added a certain sweetness that would otherwise be absent and the spices added delicious warmth. My favorite new recipe of the holiday season thus far.
Cranberry Orange Almond Spice Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup raw sugar (divided)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
generous grate of fresh nutmeg
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Coarsely chop 1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries and toss them with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Allow them to sit while you prepare the rest of the batter. Mix together flour, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the flour and add in orange juice, orange peel, oil, and egg. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Fold in the cranberries with remaining sugar and almonds Spread the batter evenly into the loaf pan (the batter will be more dough-like, don't worry, it's supposed to be that way).
Bake 45 minutes to an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from pan, cool completely.