I’m hunkered down, donning one vest, two jumpers, one scarf, thick socks and slippers, and yet my fingers are nearly numb with cold. The thermometer is showing that my office is at a balmy 15c, but if you add the sitting-chill factor (i.e. the coldness that is felt when one is sedentary) I reckon we’re down to about 10c. Could it be that after the late summer and later autumn, we’re in for an early winter? It was definitely the chilliest bonfire night for some years, making for some spectacular displays.
The American election is currently unmissable, and for the most part, thoroughly depressing. If we thought that this summer’s Brexit referendum was full of negativity, then spare a thought for the millions having to contend with the vitriol and bitterness being spouted over across the Pond.
So in the spirit of the #tellamericaitsgreat campaign, led by a group of ever-so-nice Canadians in a comeback against Trump, I’ve been flicking through my well-thumbed USA Cookbook by Sheila Lukins. This is a huge 600 page tome, filled with such brilliance as Flaherty’s maple pecan scones, Peachy keen pie and Low country shrimp & sausage gravy. In other words, food from the heart of the USA that makes you glad to be alive.
The Americans have a fine line in cake for breakfast (of course) and one of my favourites is this cranberry & orange loaf. It’s actually not quite rich enough to be called a cake, but it’s too sweet to be a bread, and too airy to be a scone. Sheila Lukins tells us that it should be toasted and spread with cream cheese, or topped with Virginia ham with scrambled eggs but I like it as it is, naked and unadorned.
The recipe is simplicity itself. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 180c.
Next, sieve together 300g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 200g caster sugar. Grate the zest of one large orange into the flour mixture. In a separate jug, melt 50g unsalted butter and then stir in 125ml fresh orange juice, 75ml buttermilk (or plain yoghurt thinned with milk) and 1 egg. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour, along with around 200g fresh cranberries and a handful of chopped pecans, if liked. Make sure that the batter is combined but try not to overmix, else you’ll end up with a tough loaf. This is a stiff mixture but if it looks very dry, add a splash of water.
Pile the batter into the prepared tin, smooth the top and sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before eating.
Cranberry and orange are stalwart winter flavours and they make a welcome return to my kitchen in this recipe. The cranberries are both sweet and tart, and the orange gives a zestiness that makes this loaf great for an early morning boost, though really you could eat this at any time of day. Thank you America.
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Recipe adapted from Sheila Lukins, USA Cookbook (1997), published by Workman Publishing, New York