January 20, 2009
I think we’ve come to the point in the winter where you have to grasp at the small bright spots—pin pricks of light on what seems like an inky dark horizon. Take yesterday: Kevin and I took a walk through the neighborhood and marveled at how downright pleasant it was. Sure, we had to pick our way over snow drifts and patches of ice—but the sun was shining and the temperature was in the double-digits. Small victories, but victories, nonetheless.
There are other bright spots to January: the day light slowly but surely lengthens; there are so many good movies out that you could contemplate moving into a theatre near you, subsisting on pocorn alone; it’s a new year, which, this year, comes with a new president. Better than all of these things, though, (except maybe the new president part!) is citrus. Like the friend who knows you better than anyone, it arrives in your darkest hour (or, say, month), just when you need a pick-me-up.
And pick me up it has. There are no fewer than five varieties of citrus piled in a bowl on my kitchen counter: some orange or yellow, others green or pink; some softball-sized, others no larger than an egg. The clementines–small and orange—are always the hardest to get through. And not for lack of trying. There’s a small bowl of them on my desk at work and I’ve been snacking on one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Kevin’s been toting them to work too. But, as if they’re reproducing, our clementine stash refuses to dwindle.
So I put them to work in this quick bread, which—if you’ve been hanging around here awhile—is really no big surprise, given my love of breakfast-y breads.
I started out with my Almond Poppy Seed Bread recipe (minus the almond and, erm, poppy seeds), because I adore it. The clementines permeate the loaf in three ways: first, fresh-squeezed juice stands in for some of the buttermilk and the almond extract I use in the original recipe; second, about one clementine’s worth of zest goes in with the dry ingredients; and, finally, when the cake is out of the oven and still warm, a drizzle of sweetened clementine juice soaks into the loaf.
The result is a very pale orange loaf that is flecked with shreds of clementine zest. It’s bright, frangrant, faintly sweet and incredibly tender. I’ve made it twice—once with whole wheat pastry flour and once with all-purpose flour. Both work but the texture of the all-purpose loaf is, unsurprisingly, superior. I also threw in a handful or so of dried cranberries, because I like the flavor combination and the pop of ruby color. All in all, just one more January bright spot to love.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
3/4 cup fresh squeezed and strained clementine juice, divided
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup sour cream (low fat is fine)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose or white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon clementine zest
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries, tossed in a teaspoon of flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a large loaf pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites, 1/2 cup juice (reserve the remaining 1/4 cup), buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla extract to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined.
In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the whisked dry ingredients. When the mixture is almost combined, add the cranberries. Beat until the wet and dry ingredients have just combined and the cranberries are distributed throughout the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for five to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the reserved 1/4 cup of juice and the powedered sugar. Remove the loaf from the pan and transfer to a baking sheet set over a piece of wax or parchment paper. Drizzle the sweetened clementine juice over the loaf; it will absorb quickly.