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Now You’re Cooking: No Mixer Required!

During the busy holiday season, there are few things more comforting than freshly baked quick breads. My family has a longstanding tradition of baking several batches of banana and pumpkin bread throughout the holiday season. Some loaves are meant for gifts, while others are for pop-in guests. And, of course, we always make extra to enjoy on Christmas morning!

Flavored with orange zest and studded with fresh cranberries, this tender pumpkin loaf makes the perfect treat for family and guests. Sprinkling a bit of cinnamon sugar over the top just before baking adds a crunchy texture that both kids and adults love.

The pumpkin ensures a moist and tender bread, and cranberries add just the right amount of tartness. Fresh or frozen cranberries work in this recipe. If you are using frozen, add them straight from the freezer without thawing. Gently fold them into the batter, just until combined.

This bread freezes beautifully if you want to make it in advance. Just hold off on the icing until the bread is thawed. Simply wrap the loaf tightly in plastic wrap or foil and then place it in a plastic zip-top food storage bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

Cranberry Orange Pumpkin Loaf

(Makes one 9-inch loaf)

1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup plain pumpkin puree

2 large eggs, at room temperature

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

⅓ cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest, plus ¼ cup fresh orange juice (from 1 large orange)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped or frozen (do not thaw)

Topping: 2 teaspoons granulated sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional icing: ½ cup powdered sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon room-temperature cream cheese and 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Place the oven rack in the middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Stir the wet mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Fold in cranberries. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.

Drizzle icing over the loaf. Slice and serve. Store leftover bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

The beauty of this Easy Banana Bread (and the Cranberry Orange Pumpkin Loaf) is that no mixer is required! All you need are a couple of mixing bowls, a whisk or fork and a sturdy spoon.

The secret to really good banana bread is overripe bananas. Bananas become sweeter as they ripen – the peel should have dark spots all over, and the flesh should be soft. If your bananas aren’t quite ripe enough, don’t fret. While ripening on the counter is best, there is another way if you are in a pinch. Just place the bananas on a baking sheet (with the peel on) and bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit until the peels turn dark brown. Cool, and then peel and mash and proceed with the recipe. Frozen overripe bananas work great as well. Just thaw and mash.

This bread can be made in advance and frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the loaf tightly in plastic wrap or foil and then place in a plastic zip-top food storage bag.

Easy Banana Bread

(Makes one 9-inch loaf)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 5 large bananas)

½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs, at room temperature

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup toasted and chopped walnuts (optional)

Optional banana topping: 1 overripe banana, cut in half lengthwise or sliced on the diagonal

1 tablespoon raw or turbinado sugar

Place the oven rack in the middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mash bananas in a large bowl; whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture just until combined. Fold in walnuts.

Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. If desired, place sliced banana over batter, leaving about a 1 1/2-inch-wide space in the center so the bread can rise. Sprinkle raw or turbinado sugar over the top.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes; then remove loaf from the pan and continue to cool on the wire rack.

Slice and serve warm or at room temperature (so good slathered with butter!). Store leftover bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays!

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