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Autumn Leaves & Loaves

There’s something very special about autumn, the season that officially begins on September 22 in the northern hemisphere. By definition, the autumnal equinox is one of two moments in the year when the sun is exactly above the equator and day and night are of equal length. The date is considered to be the first day of fall. Definition aside, it also marks the season of changing leaves and cooler nights and — this is the best part of the season for me — indulgent ingredients like apples, pears and pumpkins that are perfect for autumn loaves. 

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GINGER-PEAR LOAF

MAKES 1 LOAF

There are over 3,000 known pear varieties grown around the world, each with a distinctive character, texture, and flavor. The most popular and recognizable pears are the yellow Bartlett, with a true pear shape, followed by the elegant, egg-shaped Anjou, (also called d’Anjou), the graceful Bosc, pudgy Comice, and tiniest Forelle. Crisp, crunchy, and sweet, U.S.-grown pears are harvested from the middle of August through the end of November. This loaf is perfect on its own or topped with a light streusel.

For the loaf

2 cups flour

1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 to 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger chips

1 large egg

1/2 cup canola oil

3/4 cup milk

1 cup peeled, cored and chopped Anjou pear

Softened butter, for serving (optional)

For the streusel

1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 tablespoon crystallized ginger chips

1. Make loaf. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 7-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray with flour. 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and ginger chips.

3. In another bowl, whisk together egg, oil, and milk; stir into flour mixture until blended. Stir in pears; transfer to prepared pan. 

4. Make streusel. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, nuts and ginger chips. Sprinkle over top of loaf (if using).

5. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pan to loosen; let cool completely before cutting into slices. Serve spread with butter, if desired.

APPLE-BRANDY TEA LOAF

MAKES 1 LOAF   

Think of this recipe for a tea loaf as a less-sweet version of a traditional apple cake. The brandy adds a little kick and the nuts a bit of crunch. I like to bake it in a stoneware tea loaf pan* (12 x 4 x 2 1/2-inches) that creates smaller slices than a traditional full-sized loaf. The tea loaf pan (I bought mine at kingarthurflour.com) holds the same amount as a 9s-inch pan, so you can also use it to bake other quick breads or yeast breads. Baking times will vary if you bake it in the smaller pan.

2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

            2 cups flour 

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs 

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons brandy

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Softened butter, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a tea loaf pan with nonstick baking spray with flour. 

2. In a small bowl, toss apples with lemon juice. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon.

3. In a large bowl, beat sugar, eggs, oil, and brandy with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until blended. With a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture well until combined; stir in apples and nuts, if using. Transfer to prepared pan.

4. Bake for 75 to 80 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pan to loosen. Invert onto rack; return to upright. Let cool completely before cutting into slices. Serve spread with butter, if desired.

PUMPKIN BREAD

MAKES 2 LOAVES

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon 

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin

1 cup chopped pecans

Whipped cream cheese for spreading (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two 9-inch loaf pans with nonstick baking spray with flour.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt; stir in sugar.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture; stir in pumpkin and pecans. Transfer to prepared pans.

4. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert breads onto rack; return to upright. Let cool completely before cutting into slices. Serve spread with whipped cream cheese, if desired. Loaves can be frozen.

   Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work or to order a signed cookbook, visit www.irishcook.com.

 

 

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