Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CRANBERRY ORANGE PECAN BREAD WITH STREUSEL

HAPPY THANKSGIVING


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not celebrate Thanksgiving. No turkey, no sweet potato casserole smothered under a mountain of marshmallows. No cornbread stuffing nor cranberry relish. No festive table heaving and groaning under an abundance of food. No traditional dishes, a holiday repertoire pulled out, no note cards flipped through searching for grandma’s recipe for this, mom’s recipe for that, dad’s special whatever. No. Thanksgiving. Dinner. None.

Mixed marriage does that to you. As does living in a foreign country, the country of your beloved spouse. French, American, lapsed Catholic, once-practicing Jew all with a bit of Italian thrown in. As each and every holiday rolls around, as the rest of the world as I know it begins planning for this celebration or that, as the festivities begin to unroll on one side of the ocean or the other, chez nous….in our home…negotiations begin.


Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Bastille Day, how does one celebrate these most national of holidays when not living in that nation? Valentine’s Day or Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day or any of these pseudo-holidays that in a moment of crazed consumption or idealized global sharing have been transported to my doorstep, are we required to join in the festivities just because the stores are bursting at the seems with decorations and gifts, music is oozing out of every boutique and friends are pulling out all the stops? Hanukkah or Christmas, Easter or Passover, even a lovely Shabbat dinner after a long, tiring week of work…. Sharing? Imposing? Teaching? Constraining? Negotiations can be long and difficult some years, other years the sons decide and some years, well, we are all carried away on a wave of holiday spirit and childlike excitement and simply do both. Or all. Holidays in our home are often a series of compromises, days and weeks of careful diplomacy and long discussions. One (me) is often confronted with burgeoning Scrooge-like tendencies, the moans and groans, the complaining and the disinterestedness in any and every approaching holiday. It is, after all, quite simply easier to ignore them completely, avoid any complexity in our already complex lives and celebrate not a one, just create our own happiness, enjoying festive meals, candlelight dinners, surprising the other with prettily-wrapped gifts on a whim with no calendar imposing, demanding, making those sentimental, emotional decisions for us.

Thanksgiving. I do believe that the last Thanksgiving meal I shared with family and friends was twenty-three years ago at my sister’s in Florida. JP and I had flown over, tiny, plump, happy baby in tow, and sat down with mother, brother, sister, grandma and great-aunt in that typical end-of-November Florida heat. Before that, well, memory fails me, but it must have been the year I was in college and drove up to New York to celebrate with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Or the year after, when Michael and I cooked together in our Brooklyn apartments, one up, one down. Well, as you can see, it has been many a long year since I ate turkey with stuffing.


Do I miss it? I am often asked if nostalgia tugs at my heartstrings, if I yearn for a good old fashioned holiday spread, to sit down with loved ones before a cornucopia of Autumn’s best and fill my plate with goodies. But how to enjoy the true meaning of a holiday when it has no meaning for others? When you are so separated in both time and space from the source and soul of the feast and the origins from which it was born, the reasons that made this day so special? How can one recount the tale of Pilgrims and Indians breaking bread together in peace and harmony to a roomful of skeptics?

Yet, through thick and thin, there are some things that remain constant in my life, some traditions that I hold on to dearly, recipes that I create and recreate over and over again in the best of culinary and family traditions. Come Autumn when pumpkins and cranberries make their graceful appearance, when apples and pears crisp and sweet are abundant, when woodsy, earthy, clumsy chestnuts and elegant, sophisticated figs tumble in, with oranges plump and juicy I can’t but thumb through my old, sticky, stained notebook full of hand-written recipes culled from years of baking and cooking with friends and family and return to our old favorites. And this is what I share over and over again with my loved ones as we create our own family traditions.


My Cranberry-Orange Bread is a must-go-to recipe every holiday any time of the year. Sacks of cranberries are stuffed into one freezer drawer, ready at the get-go for my favorite quick bread. Tangy, tart, ruby red berries paired with sweet oranges is heavenly and add to that the crunchy bite of walnuts or pecans it is utterly festive! I first made this traditional, Thanksgiving Day treat eons ago while still a young college student and have been making it ever since. This year, I have decided to make tiny individual cakes and top each with a crunchy sweet streusel redolent of cinnamon. And somehow, no matter where I am, no matter how far from my childhood home and my jumble of memories, this one bread never fails to fill me with nostalgia, sweet recollections of Thanksgivings past.


INDIVIDUAL CRANBERRY-ORANGE BREAD WITH PECANS & STREUSEL

1 orange, preferably untreated
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, ideally at room temperature, cubed
1 large egg
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries, thawed if frozen (I used a container of 6.7 oz/200g), coarsely chopped
Heaping ½ cup (50 g) coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups (280 g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Streusel Topping:

3 Tbs flour
3 Tbs packed light or dark brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter

Prepare the Streusel Topping:

Place the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and toss to combine. Add the butter, cut into cubes, and, using only your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients quickly until the mixture resembles coarse damp sand or crumbs with no large chunks of butter left. Chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the Cranberry-Orange Bread batter.

Prepare the Cranberry-Orange Bread:

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Butter 8 to 10 mini cake molds – or even cupcake or muffin molds - or one large loaf tin.

Coarsely chop the cranberries by whizzing them quickly in a small food processor, being careful not to overchop and turn into paste. Coarsely chop the nuts by hand.

Finely grate the zest of the orange.

Squeeze the orange juice into a glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to make ¾ cup (about 190 ml) liquid. Add the cubes of butter and stir quickly until the butter is melted.

Blend together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg and the sugar until blended, thick and creamy. Whisk in the finely grated orange zest and then the orange liquid. Whisk in the dry ingredients until well blended then fold in the chopped cranberries and pecans or walnuts.

Spoon or ladle the batter into the mini/individual cake tins, dividing the batter evenly among 8 or 10 tins, not filling more than ¾ full. Sprinkle the Streusel Topping over the batter, breaking up any chunks as you divide it among the cakes.

Bake the individual cakes for about 30 minutes (the single loaf for up to one hour), until the Streusel Topping is set and golden and a tester inserted in the middle of one cake comes out damp but clean.


Cool the cakes on a cooling rack before sliding a knife around the edges to loosen and unmolding.

36 comments:

WiseMóna said...

Jamie!
Next year you and JP are coming over to us for Thanksgiving! Alright, we celebrate on the Friday due to school and work etc, but it is by far one of my favourite favourite holidays. I think now, more than ever, as we shape who the kids become - and our family is as blended as yours - it is important to blend the cultures and give them pieces of both our cultures. So our Thanksgiving is all-American with very Irish food :0)
A lovely recipe for sure and I can see trying this one by myself :0)

Jamie said...

@WiseMona: Oh, baby, you are on and invitation accepted! What fun it will be! Oooh celebrating with all the adorable munchkins and you and the chef! Couldn't be more perfect!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Gorgeous breads! So festive.

I'd love to experience a real Thanksgiving, in the US. At home, I generally bake a pumpkin pie in order to feel connected to all the other people who are celebrating...

Cheers,

Rosa

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

My husband is Canadian, so we celebrate two Thanksgivings, one in October and one in November. In each case, it's just a reason for our far-flung family to gather. The food is incidental, though there are certain expectations, I suppose. We have often traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday, so we've had turkey mole in Mexico, and fried turkey in Puerto Rico.

Nancy said...

Hi Jamie!!

My grandparents were immigrants to the US and so I understand how challenging it is to adapt/accept/embrace foreign holidays, etc., etc. In my family's case, they completely embraced the concept and meaning of Thanksgiving. I remember my grandmother telling me that Thanksgiving had become her favorite holiday since it was devoted to giving thanks for all the blessings she had in her life - one of which was coming to the United States and so Thanksgiving became a big holiday in my family. I think the key is to celebrate what has meaning to you!!

Baker Street said...

I too would love to experience a real thanksgiving meal. Love the idea of small individual breads! Your bread is just perfect. very festive and delicious! :)

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

I don't remember if my sister celebrated T-giving while she lived in France and married to a Frenchman. Probably not... Celebrate what's important to you, Jamie! Celebrate this festive bread and visiting cognac country (jealous) :)

Meeta K. Wolff said...

While I lived in Doha and the States we did celebrate Thanksgiving. Here in Germany it somehow has lost the touch it has from the US, but for me it's a special day to invite friends and just be together. Like Mona we celebrate on Friday / Saturday due to school but we do have a little feast with friends and say our thanks!

Great recipe to whip up before, during and after thanksgiving!

Eggs on the Roof said...

I'm celebrating Thanksgiving this year - in Oxford! It's become a tradition to mark the occasion with a wonderful American friend and our families. It's a blend of cultures and traditions for sure, but it makes for the happiest of evenings. I absolutely love the sound of the cranberry orange pecan bread - perfect, just like your post!

Heather Schmitt-González said...

I can guarantee that if we ever moved to another country (like back to hubby's Mexico), Thanksgiving is THE ONE holiday/meal I'd hold on to tightly! It's always been my favorite. I do understand how certain ones just get pushed to the wayside, though. Compromise and adapt, ey? ;) Your bread sounds so delightful. I'd love to back some little loaves and hand them out to teachers and bus drivers this year!

Aparna E. said...

ohhhh YUM! And here I thought I was cool making orange cranberry bread ;) haha.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I felt a little sad reading about your lost traditions, but I was elated when I saw the invite you got from WiseMona. She is a wise lady. You must take that yummy looking cranberry orange pecan bread with you.

Lora said...

When I lived in Germany my US expat friends and I were desperate to get our Thanksgiving on every year. It was a huge production to pull off the meal but we enjoyed sharing it with our German friends. Now that I am back in the US I am a bit ho hum about it this year and as usual, my German husband could care less. Your bread looks divine. Perfect for the season.

Sanjeeta kk said...

Oh...one of those tiny loaves is for me Jamie..Agree with you wholeheartedly on 'When you are so separated in both time and space from the source and soul of the feast and the origins from which it was born' celebrating a festival has no meaning. I do celebrate Christmas though, just for the cakes, goodies, and gifts it brings along..and of course for the most entertaining Santa :)

Jamie said...

@Sanjeeta KK: I love Christmas decorations, music, goodies and treats and of course the gifts. The only reason I let it enter my home :-D

Nuts about food said...

We don't really do Thanksgiving either, not the real thing, for many of the same reasons. Living in a foreign country, married to a foreigner, sitting in the office instead of having time to roast a turkey for hours...to tell you the truth, I can't even claim nostalgia for childhood Thanksgivings because growing up in Italy with a German mother, well...we never really celebrated it. I do however like any excuse to eat and drink and sit around the table with those I love. And now, with two kids who are growing up Italian, I feel the need to instill some of my American culture in them. So I tell them about the Mayfair and we do little activities together. First and foremost, it is yet another chance to stop and think and be grateful for what is good in our lives. It is nice to give thanks and to teach this to our kids and that is why I am trying to create an ever so suttle tradition in my own family.

Sandy said...

Hi Jamie! Your story is quiet amusing - really like your thoughts of a "globalized" world. As a german girl with a german husband (no foreign roots) we don't celebrate such a day. Two weeks ago we have been to Santa Monica to IFBC and there was all about Thanksgiving! Couldn't be part of the "chatter" about turkeys and sweet potato mash. But I love the Idea of thanksgiving. So, I think, me and my better half are celebrating our Thanksgiving every week. He is working far away and we he is back home then it's quality time, with sitting around, sometimes with friends, eating, laughing, joking and being thankful that we have the both of us.
Instead of Happy Thanksgiving I say take care of you and your family, greetings, Sandy

Helene Dsouza said...

ah yes as an immigrant u have to adjust,... thats how it is. One should only celebrate if there is something to celebrate which is dear to the heart.

Your cranbeery orange Pecan bread looks great, I like especially the picture where the 3 breads are wrapped with paper and stapled over each other.

Nicole said...

Ok, you sounded a little like a scrooge there for a minute, but I get it...in the end, I think I'm a lot like you, We've spent many Thanksgivings overseas (and actually loved sharing the holiday with foreigners) but there is too much stress attached to the travel and family ties of a typical Thanksgiving...
this year it's the 3 of us (plus 2 friends from my high school class, reunited...) for a bit of a non-traditional feast. No turkey, (beef) no mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, no pie, but there is wild rice stuffing, squash, cranberry relish, in short, it's going to be a FEAST, because that's what I do ;)
Happy every day feasting, Jamie.

Lisa said...

I think Thanksgiving should be globalized too..the whole world celebrating a feast together would be pretty amazing. I find myself wishing those from other countries a Happy Thanksgiving and then remembering they're not celebrating it. I'm so sad you won't be celebrating it, and haven't in 24 years, especially with your gift in the kitchen..what a spread you would put out! BUT, large, festive meals can always be had without any labels attached to them.

Your cranbberry orange pecan bread looks so moist and lovely, and it's that much more special with the streusel. G-D _..I love streusel.

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

Oh, Jamie, I hear you! I'm not American so have never done Thanksgiving but I fully understand when it comes to Christmas time. French hubby just refuses to eat cranberry sauce and turkey (c'est la dinde avec de la confiture!) Miserable. But I'm sure if I managed to negotiate with your bread, then we're talking. This year, poor Mum in Scotland has decided to serve beef to keep the French side happy. Can you imagine?

lisa is cooking said...

Our Thanksgivings have become a different kind of celebration every year. Some years we travel to see family, and others we stay home and family comes here, and sometimes, like this year we stay home and celebrate on our own. The food always makes it great however we end up celebrating. I love cranberry and orange together, and the streusel topping on this bread sounds great! Happy (late) Thanksgiving!

Ivy said...

Although we don't celebrate thanksgiving either, I like the true essence of the celebration and not only when it's about food. Your cakes look adorable and surely delicious. Have a safe trip to Paris and enjoy yourself (saw your post of FB) :)

Lana said...

Oh, the joy and damnation of a mixed marriage! I adopted my husband's American Thanksgiving, always skeptical and doubtful, changing his family's not-so-wholesome recipes. I tackle the feast single-handed every year, and I make our own memories and traditional recipes.
In turn, even though we are a family of non-believers, we observe two Christmases, two New Years, and two Easters (and many more ethnic holidays that we choose to bring to heart). This makes for a year full of celebration, which is a major accomplishment in my book:)
Lovely post, Jamie:) One of these days I hope to spend some time with you, on any latitude:)

Kate at Serendipity said...

Hi Jamie! Here in Belgium we celebrate T-giving sometimes. Our friends and neighbors are fascinated by the stories and the dishes. The only difficult thing is finding a whole turkey in November-here they're considered a Christmas thing. Luckily, we have a good butcher who knows the right farmers...

This recipe looks wonderful! It's just the right time of year to stock up on cranberries too. Thanks for posting this!

Cake Duchess said...

Love this delicious bread. I think if we moved back to Italy, I would feel nostalgic for Thanksgiving. We could certainly host a dinner there. I know some ingredients aren't easy to find. We Italianize ours and also make lasagne:)xx

Hannah Home said...

Sounds really delicious, I will definitely try this recipe. I agree with you if you don't live in your country or you just don't feel like celebrating what is the point of doing it just to say you had a Thanksgiving dinner?

Winnie said...

Lovely festive recipe for this time of year. And should you ever find yourself in upstate NY around T day you are most welcome at our table :)

Rambling Tart said...

This was my first year NOT celebrating Thanksgiving and you know, I didn't miss it. It was almost a relief not to have to do all the work and cleaning and decorating and just to have a quiet night at home with my man watching BBC movies. :-)

Junglefrog said...

I think thanksgiving is a great holiday. We don't celebrate it here but having worked for an American company for years I've been to a couple thanksgiving dinners. LOVED it. I was talking to Tom the other day that maybe we should start celebrating thanksgiving too..:) or we may just join you in Ireland next year..:)

Lynn at Southern Fried French said...

Well I love Thanksgiving, but you had me at streusel. Can't wait to try.

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Celebrate... don't celebrate... as long as you make this bread for me if I ever visit you!! Some of my favourite flavours in one loaf :)

shirley said...

Hi..I just discovered your blog..great post! I really love reading your articles. Your bread looks perfect and delicious. I loved it!

angela@spinachtiger said...

The funny thing is that there are many Americans who wish they could skip over Thanksgiving to NOT see family. I used to be that way, but now I would like to skip over it because I'm not crazy for the food. Let's say this. When it's good (food,family) it's really good. When it's bad...

Mairi said...

It's a little like that when you move to the other side of the world & Christmas ends up in the middle of Summer...it turns everything on its head. Every second year I am an orphan but this year I have Mum & Dad & friends over from the UK...so really for me it is all about the company & this year is going to be a fantastic Christmas that I will treasure.

Brenda said...

Hi Jamie,
I found your blog today as I roamed around other equally beautiful foodie blogs. I am a recent Irish transplant in New England with family in tow. How I wish I discovered this post before I found my self tied to the kitchen on our first Thanksgiving here. I am going to save this recipe for next year and serve it outdoors on a lazy day walk or some other relaxing outing. I think we have had our first and last Thanksgiving.

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