Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Baking

Growing up, my family would pack up our things each Christmas and pile into the mini van to head to my Grandma Joy's house in Springfield, Illinois. After hours in the car, my family would tumble out of the van and into Grandma's house where she would always have dozens of cookies waiting for us. Grandma Joy would make what seemed like thousands of cookies to give away to family and friends in old coffee cans and festive Christmas tins. Piecrust kisses, oatmeal scotchies, thumbprint cookies... sooo many different varieties. A lot of my Christmas memories are centered around the traditions started with my dad's side of the family... I think my love of baking began in Grandma Joy's kitchen.

This year, Curt and I decided to spend our first Christmas as a married couple with his family up in Massachusetts. It was really nice to be part of the Congdon/Iemolini family traditions. I wanted to bring some of my family traditions up to Massachusetts.... so along with having blueberry muffins on Christmas morning, I baked!

I had already baked 10 dozen cookies to give away to our neighbors and co-workers, so I decided to try something new.... Cranberry Orange Bread.

Cranberries are all over the place during the holidays and I wanted to take advantage of them... these tart little fruits have tons of antioxidants, so they are great for you and they taste great too!
* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 tbs orange juice
* 1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans
* 1/4 cup butter, softened
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1 egg
* 3/4 cup orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan. Since I was giving these little loaves away as gifts, I wanted to give away a smaller size. I found these adorable little loaf pans at Michaels, so I used those and they turned out to be super cute!
In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and margarine. Add in the egg and the orange juice and mix until thoroughly combined.

Slowly add in the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and mix until just combined.
Next, add in the cranberries, pecans, and orange zest, then mix until combined.

(It took about 1 orange for 1 tbs of zest)
In the first batch I made, I put the cranberries in whole, but Curt thought it was a bit too much cranberry in one bite. For next batches, I cut the cranberries in half (thanks to the suggestion from Genelle!!!). The taste seemed to be a bit more evened out.

Pour into the greased loaf pans, then bake for an hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

And now for the finished product!

I thought that the breads looked pretty good once they were finished... but who would complain about a little bit of extra sugar?

(now that's a lot of bread!)

I made a little glaze by mixing together some powdered sugar and some orange juice until it had the right consistency. Then, I just drizzled it over the little loaves of bread. I think it gave the bread a nice sweet touch. Everyone loved it!

I couldn't just give out the bread in the pans, so I wrapped them in a bit of festive green cellophane and tied them up with red and white ribbons.

Cute huh?

(aren't the little loaf pans cute?!)

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