Cranberry-orange bread, or What to make when life gives you sour oranges

I’m back.  Sorry for the hiatus.  There were colds, holidays, travel, life, yada, yada, yada.  Anyway, I’m back, and I have lots of ideas for new posts.  Today’s is about oranges.  And baked deliciousness.

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This time of year my mind turns to citrus.  There’s something magical about the sunshine a Florida orange or Texas grapefruit represents on your breakfast plate when the weather in your neck of the woods is dark and dreary.

Growing up in New England, we relished such treats from faraway lands.  When I was young, my great-grandfather wintered in Florida and every year he’d ship a box of grapefruits to us.  I can still picture where the case sat on the bench in our mudroom, just off the kitchen.  My mother would ration them, reminding us each time she prepared one for us (all those little cuts being a true act of love, wouldn’t you say?), that this was a treat to have them shipped to us.  I can’t explain why that makes them superior to those that had been shipped to the grocery store, but I still (perhaps irrationally) agree.

Alas, this is not a recipe inspired by exotic treats shipped from distant groves by a loved one.  No, it’s an updated version of a family favorite, busted out to use up our sadly sour oranges.

Allow me to share a bit of background.  Last year we moved to a house in Northern California that had an orange tree.  (A Valencia, as best I can tell.)  For a New England girl, this was like having a polar bear as a backyard pet.  Totally unbelievable.  So last winter, when the tree was loaded with fruit, we did our best to keep up.  We juiced tons  for fresh blended juices and mimosas.  One day we picked an entire box with big plans to make and freeze the juice.  Sadly, we took that bounty for granted and didn’t get around to it.  The oranges spoiled and we tossed them on the green waste pile to be composted, certain there’d be plenty more where they had come from.

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Oh, how foolish we were.  With the twice yearly harvest, we assumed that tree bore more fruit than we could bare.  And then the cold snap hit.  This December our area experienced a week of daytime temperatures in the 20s and 30s, a very unusual occurrence.  I heard on the radio that citrus producers in the region lost much of their crop.  It took me several days to work out that that meant ours was probably lost, too.  (I’m not a quick study on these things…. still getting the hang of the urban homesteading thing.)

Several more days passed before I got up the nerve to check on our oranges.  Only I didn’t.  And the next thing I knew my lovely husband had made mimosas for New Years day, and even our very polite house guest admitted they were undrinkable.  Way. Too. Sour.

But you know the old saying… when life gives you sour oranges…   Yeah, yeah, I know that’s not how it goes.  But there’s nothing actually wrong with lemons.  They are supposed to be sour.  I hereby move to change the expression to sour oranges.

Anyway, between my guilt over last year’s waste and the rise-to-the-challenge call to action this year’s sour harvest has issued, I’m a woman on a mission.  No sour orange shall go underappreciated in this house!  Look out lemonade, my sour oranges and I are gonna make you wish you were lemons.  (Nothing like a fantasy fruit throw-down, is there?)

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My competitive spirit and overly ambitious nature led me to dream up a scheme to try to develop 20 good uses for sour oranges (or regular ones should you not be suffering from the same glut of immature fruit as me).  That may be a little extreme, I quickly realized.  It might necessitate it’s own blog, and I can barely keep this one going.  However, I will present a bunch, with modifications for using other citrus varieties.  I hope you will join me in my winter blues busting sour orange extravaganza.  And may I now (finally!) present to you the first (sour) orange recipe.

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Cranberry-orange bread

This is a healthier adaptation of a recipe my mom shared with me years ago.  We grew up with it, and it brings back great memories.  It hits all the right sweet-tart notes with the combination of cranberries and oranges (using both juice and zest, so please use organic, and check back soon for my post on making and preserving big batches of citrus zest).

The oranges need not be sour. This recipe assumes you will be using sweet oranges. (If you’ve got a glut of sour ones, too, just sweeten the juice until it tastes right, then proceed with the recipe.)

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The nuts, although essentially optional, really round out the flavor and texture of the bread. I used pecans for their delicate taste and crunch, but walnuts would be okay too if you don’t mind their bitterness.

I’m filing this under breakfast, but it makes a great tea cake or dessert, too.  Especially with orange curd.  See my upcoming post on that soon!

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Recipe

Time: 20 minutes hands-on, plus 1 hour to bake
Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:
3/4 c orange juice (about 3 oranges)
1T orange zest (requires about 2 oranges)
1/3 c dried cranberries
2c fresh cranberries (I used frozen, without defrosting)
1/2 c nuts (I used pecans)
2c flour (I used half white and half whole wheat)
1c sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/4 c coconut oil
1 egg

Directions:
0. Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8.5″ loaf pan. (See tip below.)

1. Juice and zest the oranges. Measure the quantities required and set aside.

2. Place dried cranberries into a small bowl and add orange juice. Set aside to soak.

3. Roughly chop nuts and cranberries (I used a food processor, but by hand is fine, too, although you’ll need to defrost the cranberries first). Dump into a large bowl.

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4. Cut flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and coconut oil together until fine. (Again, I used the food processor, pulsing to incorporate the solidified oil.)

5. Beat egg, add to food processor along with orange juice (reserving dried cranberries) and zest. Blend until just mixed. (Or mix by hand in a large bowl.)

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6. Pour wet ingredients into the nuts and cranberries, add dried cranberries and stir to combine. Fill loaf pan and bake one hour or until toothpick comes out clean. (I did a double batch and it took 70 minutes.)

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Enjoy it straight from the oven or once cooled.  It lasts well on the counter for several days (that is, it stays moist… no guarantee it won’t get eaten, though).  It’s great toasted with butter or cream cheese.  To freeze, wrap loaf in wax paper and store in freezer bag.

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**Baking tip: Keep butter wrappers in the freezer for greasing pans easily and without waste.

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This post was shared at Simple Lives Thursday at My Humble Kitchen, Simply Natural Saturdays at the Pistachio Project, Sew Darn Crafty Linky Party and Thank Goodness it’s Monday at Nourishing Joy.

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