Fruit-and-Nut or Vegetable-and-Nut Bread

MAKES: 1 loaf

TIME: About 11/4 hours

This is the master recipe for making a whole family of breads, like Cranberry-Pecan, Zucchini-Sunflower, or Carrot-Walnut you name it; more combinations are suggested in the variations and the list on 7 Great Fruit or Vegetable and Nut Combinations. If the fruit is really juicy (like peaches), put the pieces in a strainer and let them drain for an hour or so before proceeding. Feel free to experiment with the seasonings as well as the fruits and nuts.

To make muffins, prepare the batter as directed, then divide it among greased muffin cups, increase the oven temperature to 400В°F, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. (See Muffins, Infinite Ways.)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, plus butter for the pan

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fruit juice (like orange or apple) or milk

1 tablespoon minced or grated orange or lemon zest

1 egg

1 cup any raw fruit or vegetable: berries left whole, anything else peeled and grated or chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350В°F. Grease a 9 Г— 5-inch loaf pan.

Stir the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into bits, then use a fork or 2 knives to cut it into the dry ingredients until there are no pieces bigger than a small pea. (Using a food processor makes this step quite easy, but don’t use the food processor for the remaining steps or the bread will be tough.)

Beat together the juice, zest, and egg. Pour into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten; do not beat and do not mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in the fruit and nuts, then pour and spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about an hour, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Variations

Dried Fruit and Nut Bread. Not as heavy as traditional holiday fruitcake: Instead of fresh fruit, use 3/4 cup dried fruit, any single kind or a combination, coarsely chopped. Before beginning the recipe, heat the fruit juice gently, then pour it over the dried fruit. Let steep for 30 minutes. When you get to Step 3, add the zest and the egg to the fruit mixture and then proceed with the recipe, folding in only the nuts before baking.

Whole Grain Fruit-and-Nut or Vegetable-and-Nut Bread. Makes a slightly denser loaf: Substitute whole wheat, buckwheat, cornmeal, or other flour either alone or in combination for up to 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour.

Pumpkin Ginger Bread with Hazelnuts. Different from the usual version, because the pumpkin isn’t cooked and pured first: Grate enough pumpkin or other winter squash to yield 1 loosely packed cup. Use hazelnuts. Instead of the zest, use minced peeled fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground.

Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds. Gorgeous color: Instead of granulated sugar, use dark or golden brown sugar. Grate enough carrots to yield 1 loosely packed cup. Use sliced almonds.

7 Great Fruit or Vegetable and Nut Combinations

  1. Zucchini and cashews
  2. Winter squash and hazelnuts
  3. Sweet potatoes and pecans
  4. Cherries (pitted) and almonds
  5. Cranberries and pistachios
  6. Grapes (halved) and peanuts
  7. Apples and walnuts