I have always loved tart flavors. My parents love to tell a story of me, at a very young age (young enough to still be in a high chair), sucking on lemons, grimacing horribly and then eagerly asking for "MORE!" I still love citrus, especially lemons and grapefruit. I add a squirt of lemon juice or a dash of lemon zest to any dish that will accommodate it. I love a vinaigrette that makes your lips pucker. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I am crazy about cranberries. I buy them all fall and freeze them for use throughout the year because I just can't get enough of them when they are in stores in November and December.
I can't remember exactly when I had my first cranberry bread but it had to be when I was about seven or eight years old. I remember this taking place in our "old" house and we moved just before Thanksgiving the year I was nine. My mother and I had read a book where part of the story included baking cranberry bread and the book included the recipe (I wish I could remember the title of the book!). I begged her to make the bread for Thanksgiving that year and, being the awesome mom that she is and was, she made it of course. I distinctly remember it including orange juice because I was blown away at the idea of baking! with orange juice! Every since that Thanksgiving our family dinner has included cranberry bread. Now that my parents live in Florida Thanksgiving definitely has a different feel to it - hello we eat in shorts with the air conditioning on - but a cranberry bread is always part of the meal.
In developing this recipe I wanted to keep the feel of that long-lost recipe but also wanted to boost the flavor a bit. My favorite banana bread in the world is by Dorie Greenspan and that is the inspiration for this recipe. Her banana cake (as she calls it) is extremely moist and quite sweet. I figured the sweetness would play nicely against the flavor of unsweetened fresh (or frozen) cranberries. Homemade unsweetened applesauce subs for for the mashed bananas and the flavor is enhanced by the addition of cinnamon and ground ginger. This recipe is extremely moist from the addition of sour cream so rather than adding liquid in the form of orange juice I added the zest of a good-sized orange. My tasting panel (aka my daughter) declared the bread "delicious." I hope you do, too.
Apple-Cranberry Bread (Cake?)
Yields 1 Bundt Cake or 2 standard loaves (recipe can be cut in half)
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 8 oz unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce (preferably homemade but store-bought is fine)
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (Greek-style is preferable if you opt for yogurt)
- 1 12 oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped (not dried)
- 1 TBS flour
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350˚.
- Generously grease a 12 cup Bundt pan or two standard loaf pans (I have used three mini-pans in place of a standard loaf pan as well - great for gifts!)
- Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Using either a standing mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until it is creamy.
- Add in the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs in one at a time taking care to incorporate each egg fully.
- Decrease the speed of your mixer and beat in the applesauce. Add in the orange zest. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled at this point - it will come together when the dry ingredients are added!
- Add in the dry ingredients alternating with the yogurt or sour cream in two batches and mix to combine between each addition.
- Toss the cranberries with about 1 TBS of flour to coat evenly (this will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the bread). Mix in the cranberries by hand to distribute evenly.
- Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
- If using a Bundt pan it should take about 65-70 minutes to bake. If using standard loaf pans baking time will be reduced to about 50-55 minutes (The mini-loaves take about 40). If the bread is browning too quickly during cooking you can cover it, lightly, with some foil. You'll know they are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or when you press on the top it bounces back leaving no indentation.
- Allow the bread to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing. Allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing. This recipe actually tastes better the next day (just wrap the bread tightly for storing).