It seems that traditions become even more important as life gets busier. Especially around the holidays, it is a wonderful relief to know that there are things you can count on, things that remain the same year to year. One of our family’s favorites is a quick bread we’ve been baking since my son Max was barely old enough to hold a spoon and stir the batter. It started with a basic cookbook recipe but has evolved over the years into something special.
We always have the bread ready and waiting when everyone gets up on Christmas morning, when everyone needs a little something but no one wants to wait before the gift-opening begins. The slices, studded with chunks of spicy ginger and glistening cranberries and scented with cardamom, are favorites at other times, too – as a quick breakfast, slipped into a lunchbox, or with a cup of tea for an afternoon snack with friends. It also makes a very popular holiday gift for friends and neighbors. But the smell of it baking makes me think of Christmas morning gathered around the tree, watching as the children tear open their presents and the adults take a moment to just enjoy. I hope you’ll like it enough to add it to your own family traditions.
Max’s Christmas Bread
1 large egg, beaten
½ c orange juice
3 T vegetable oil
½ c sugar
2 t baking powder
1 t ground cardamom
1 ½ c all purpose flour
4 T crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 c cranberries, coarsely chopped (if using frozen berries, do not thaw)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease the bottom of a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
Combine egg, orange juice and oil in large bowl. Add sugar, baking powder and cardamom and mix well. Toss crystallized ginger with flour, and add to bowl. Mix until just incorporated. Batter will be lumpy.
Fold in the cranberries, being careful not to overmix.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
*During cranberry season, I always make sure to buy several extra bags of berries to toss in the freezer so we can bake this bread throughout the winter. The bread itself freezes beautifully, too – individually wrapped frozen slices make a perfect edible ice pack for a picnic basket, and thaw in plenty of time to make a wonderfully sweet ending to the meal.
Finished bread photography by Julia Daby.