I have a theory on how the humble little quick bread became everyone’s favorite homemade holiday gift: no one has time for anything in December. Life goes from busy to absolutely chaotic. I’m supposed to be where, when? You’re on your way over…um, great! Throw in shopping, pre-entertaining deep-cleaning, the fact that you must double the amount of time it takes to go anywhere, and you get the picture. If you’re going to have something in homemade in hand when you show up at that party, the only viable option is a loaf of quick bread.
Thankfully, quick breads are among my favorite baked goods to give and receive. On a giving end, I love making them for the obvious reason of being quick, but they’re also versatile and forgiving. Don’t have the cranberries the recipe is calling for? No biggie–use the dried cherries from the cupboard. Slightly over-baked because you were singing in the shower and didn’t hear the timer buzz? Don’t sweat it, just add extra glaze. You get the picture; it’s easy, relaxed baking. On a receiving end, it’s always such a pleasure to wake in the morning, knowing a breakfast-able is ready and waiting on the counter. And, of course, you can always pop a loaf in the freezer and save it for, say, when you’ve run out of Christmas cookies and you need to shake the middle of January blues.
This is a great quick bread–tender and cakey, made with cornmeal and buttermilk, bursting with winter citrus and bejeweled with tart cranberries. It’s perfect to give as a gift, but if you want to bake a loaf just for yourself and enjoy in a dark, quiet room away from the hustle n’ bustle, that’s cool, too.
Alright, turn your oven on and grease some loaf pans; we’ll have our little loaves baking in no time! Melt some butter, grab your baking basics, plus a bowl of cranberries and an orange.
Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and in one bowl; whisk together buttermilk, eggs, butter, and orange zest in another.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until the two are just combined. Fold in the cranberries and divide the batter between your loaf pans.
Hopefully, you’re keeping one of those loaves for yourself and you can cut yourself a thick slice to, you know, test the product. If not, go ahead and lap up those glaze puddles. I’m not looking and you need to keep your energy up if you’re going to power through the rest of December.
- 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
- 1 c. Cornmeal
- 1 c. Sugar
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder
- ½ c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 ¼ c. Buttermilk
- 2 Eggs
- zest of 1 Orange
- 1 ½ c. Fresh Cranberries
- For the Glaze:
- about 2 Tbsp. Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
- about ¾ c. Powdered Sugar, sifted
- pinch of Salt
- Preheat oven to 350°. Butter or spray 4 mini loaf pans. If I’m planning on gifting the loaves, I add a parchment “sling” to insure flawless removal, though it probably isn’t necessary. You could certainly use a muffin tin, as well.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and orange zest. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and quickly stir together until wet and dry are just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cranberries, working gently so you don’t smash the berries. Divide the batter between the prepared pan(s) and use the spatula to even the tops. Bake until a tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
- While the loaves are cooling, make the orange glaze. Squeeze about 2 Tbsp. of orange juice into a small bowl. Whisk in a pinch of salt and enough powdered sugar to reach a thick but drizzle-able consistency. When the loaves are completely cool, drizzle the glaze over the tops, letting it drip down the sides. If you aren’t serving the bread immediately, allow the glaze to set before wrapping. The bread will keep well for a couple of days at room temperature or can be frozen for a few weeks.