One of my favorite holiday breads comes from my friend Karen Horan in Key West -- handed down from her grandmother. She finally took pity on me and gave me the recipe last year; I guess she got sick of having to bake me a loaf every time I came to visit. This bread is insanely addictive because of the balance of sweet and sour (it's made with fresh cranberries and good old Florida orange juice), and the recipe has the advantage that it makes three loaves: two and three quarters loaves for you, and a crust or two for your closest friend.
When I made the bread this year, as I cut open one of my Florida navel oranges, I found a deep pink interior, like a ruby grapefruit. That color, in turn, reminded me that Baking & Boozing goes together like Love & Marriage. And since this recipe leaves you with half an orange left over, I assembled the mise en place for my version of the Negroni:
The Negroni is particularly advantageous as a baking cocktail, because the Campari's bitterness entirely cuts through the sugary batter you'll be licking off your spatula, your fingers, and the rim of your mixing bowl. And since it mimics the color of that beautiful navel orange, it's totally serendipitous as a pre-Christmas tipple.
Gail's Florida Negroni
One shot good gin (I use Miller's)
One shot sweet vermouth
One shot Campari
Juice of 1/2 a Florida Orange
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a martini glass. Add an orange peel twist or garnish with slice.
Now we're really ready to do some bakin'!
Karen's Orange Cranberry Loaf
6 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups sugar (use 3 1/2 if you like a sweeter bread)
6 tbs melted butter
2 cups water
3 oranges, zest and juice (plus half cup juice)
3 beaten eggs
3 cups chopped nuts
1 bag cranberries
Preheat oven to 325. Sift together flour, baking soda, powder, salt and sugar. Add the grated rind and orange juice. Add melted butter and two cups boiling water. Mix well with other ingredients, then add beaten eggs, chopped nuts, and package of cranberries.
Mix well and bake one hour at 325 or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Karen's grandmother adds:
"One sack of berries makes the recipe, which makes three loaves. The bread keeps well in the freezer. You can also use vegetable or coffee cans which make nice round loaves but be certain to grease the sides and bottom of the can well. To remove simply allow to cool, open the bottom of the can with a can opener, and push out. When making smaller than regular loaf sizes cooking time would be cut almost in half so be certain to watch closely.
"It is difficult to find packages of raw cranberries before Thanksgiving or after the New Year. I usually buy a few extra bags and keep frozen for the rest of the year. To use the frozen berries do not thaw before mixing. Simply rinse well and stir into the batter."