Maybe it was obvious to my dear readers, maybe my radio silence gave it away. But here’s where I admit it: 2012 started with me in a big food rut. I spent a good chunk of my time home in North Carolina cooking, and much of my time before the holidays baking, and when I returned to New York, I was over it. My kitchen was way over it, being in a state of disaster. And lots of dirty dishes plus work exhaustion left me in no place to deal with life in the kitchen. And while I had some no-cooking-necessary posts started [your favorite recipes of 2011, my holiday cooking experience in North Carolina], my motivation wasn’t strong. I just… I was just over it. Can I say that enough? Just now I realize how strongly I was feeling.
But this woman can only live on take-out for so long. Slowly, the itch to cook or bake something, ANYTHING, returned. The itch to write couldn’t be contained. Even after baking a zillion crackers and playing in cheese for four days straight, it was time to tackle the kitchen beast. Full of bits and bobs from my refrigerator and freezer, this loaf is what emerged. There are crunchy salted whole pistachios at the base, pops of whole cranberries throughout a dense, whole wheat and olive oil bread, and chewy slices of candied kumquat on top.
So I guess I could call this a success? Definitely! Food rut shattered? Eh… I’m not sure. But I’m happy to share a quick and easy recipe that’s great for breakfast or snacking. The multitude of textures throughout the bread make it way more interesting than your standard loaf. The savory pistachios and tart cranberries create this whole not-too-sweet thing that’s perfect. Did I mention it’s flexible? Any whole nut could be used instead, and any candied citrus [or hell, fresh citrus zest] could be used. You can sour your own milk with some vinegar or lemon juice if you don’t own buttermilk. And almost any sort of oil or melted butter could be used.
Double bonus? Using up the tail end of a jarred creation! Simple candied kumquat slices with vanilla bean were jarred in Chez Hanhan last winter, using a basic technique from one of my favorite canning cookbooks. After using most of the chopped peel in my other project of 2012 [New Years Day brunch scones], I used the last dozen or so rings of citrus and a fair amount of the syrup straight on the warm bread. Aside: If you’ve never candied peel, I recommend starting with kumquat – the process is easy and these little rings are incredibly versatile. [This recipe is a good starting point for candying your own kumquat – just slice into rings and remove seeds instead of rough chopping.]
If the holidays left you feeling a similar kitchen blah, give this loaf a try. Easy. Delicious. Nutritionally both nice and a little naughty.
Adapted from this recipe.
- 1 cup [120 grams] all-purpose flour
- 1 cup [120 grams] whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/3 teaspoon five spice powder [or 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg]
- 1/2 cup [100 grams] brown sugar
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons [75 grams] white sugar
- 1/4 cup [2 ounces] olive oil
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3/4 cup [6 ounces] buttermilk
- 1 cup [heaping] whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- 2 tablespoons candied kumquat rings -[or 1 tablespoon fresh citrus zest]
- 1/4 cup candied citrus syrup [optional]
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease or parchment-line a 9" x 5" loaf pan.
- Combine the flours, baking powder and soda, salt and spices, whisking together to combine and aerate.
- In a separate bowl, combine both sugars. Add the oil, egg and buttermilk and mix well to combine.
- Add the liquids to dry ingredients, stirring gently to combine. Add the cranberries and stir just a few more times.
- Sprinkle the loaf pan with pistachios - enough to cover the bottom in one layer. Spoon the batter evenly on top of the pistachios. If using kumquats, place the rings down the center of the loaf. Or sprinkle zest evenly over the whole loaf.
- Bake for 60-80 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the loaf comes clean.
- If using the syrup, pour it evenly over the warm loaf. Let cool completely before removing from the pan and slicing.