Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tea cake and a cranberry quick bread...

For the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day event this week, we thought that this time we should probably prepare a treat that didn't include chocolate for a change. I'm sure not everyone loves chocolate as much as we do (*gasp!*) and looking back over the past few weeks, we have been a little heavy in the chocolate department.

We had decided to make a quick bread, but rather than making two of the same kind, I also threw together a tea cake in the interest of giving them options to choose from (or both if so inclined!). *Just a note, to add some nutrition, we used some whole-wheat pastry flour as part of the dry ingredients in both recipes - if you don't have this, you can just replace it with all-purpose flour.

Since there were a few steps in the tea cake recipe, I decided to work on the Lemon Poppy-Seed Tea Cake first. Ever since I've been using that fantastic technique from Dorie Greenspan about rubbing zest into sugar before creaming the sugar with butter, I always try to do this extra step to maximize the zest's potential. When I was getting my list for the market together this past weekend, I had to run out to the garage to check my supply of poppy seeds. Since I don't use them all that often, I keep these crunchy, blue-grey seeds in cold storage because they can go rancid fairly quick.

Once the cake was in the oven, I began working on a sweet, yet tart lemon syrup. To create this, a simple combination of granulated sugar and fresh lemon juice is brought to a boil - doing this ensures all of the grainy sugars will dissolve into the juice. As soon as the tea cake tested done, the top was littered with holes from a toothpick and almost all of the syrup is poured over the top. It is essential that this part is done while the cake is warm so it is absorbed into the cake, creating a very moist inside. After a couple hours of cooling, the cake is turned out of the loaf pan and is given a brush with the remaining sticky syrup. Waiting until cake has cooled to finish with the remaining syrup allows it to dry on the exterior, giving the crust a delicious sweet crunch. Very lemony, this zesty cake, studded with the nutty seeds, was quite the refreshing change we were looking for.

Unlike the above, this Cranberry-Orange Nut Bread I also made took very little time to prepare. There is no creaming of butter in this bread, so all you basically do is dump a bunch of ingredients into a bowl and stir them together! My main reason for choosing this recipe was to finally break into my stash of frozen fresh cranberries that have been loitering in our freezer! I've mentioned it before, but around Thanksgiving time, I make sure to buy several extra bags so we can store them in the freezer and enjoy that fresh cranberry flavor throughout the year.

One flavor that is always a brilliant match with cranberries is orange. So we used freshly squeezed orange juice and the zest of said orange in this snazzy quick bread. Instead of butter for the fat, this recipe uses a combination of neutral canola oil and tangy yogurt to lend moisture and texture. If you don't happen to have yogurt handy, you could also use the same amount of buttermilk or even sour cream instead.

As with most muffins, cakes or quick breads that have chunky additions at the end, be sure to gently fold them into the batter with the least amount of strokes as possible. Overworking the batter can lead to rising and textural issues. You could leave the final addition to this bread with the coarsely chopped cranberries (food processors make short work of chopping!), but we thought we would add a handful of toasted walnuts for a nutty contrast. This studded bread was soft and slightly sweet - we both loved the tart little bites of cranberry we found in each bite. I think this bread would also be great baked in mini loaves and wrapped up to give as an tasty edible gift.


  1. I absolutely love your blog! Not only do you describe everything so well and take wonderful pictures, but you are also SO generous! And you do these all daily! =)
    - RebelYell18 (from CLBB)

  2. RebelYell - Thanks for the nice words! I just hope that we don't become too stale in our words... I can't believe we are coming up on our 3 year mark in just a couple of months!

  3. A slice of each please! They look delicous. I especially love the lemon and poppyseed one, so moist and zesty - yum

  4. Love the idea with the zest!


  5. Really good choice for this week's treat. The treat I made yesterday was the Outrageous Oreo Crunch Brownies posted on your site. Continuing the tradition of reviewing your comments before making a recipe. My teenage boys and their kids loved the treat. At one point I had to hide them so they could have some for tonight. I have to admit that I had a piece for breakfast. They're so good.

  6. Those look delicious! I looove lemon poppyseed ... but the cranberry-orange nut ones look just as awesome! Yum ;)

  7. Katie - It would be my pleasure to serve you a slice of each!

    Quinn - Thanks!

    Helene - My favorite brownies!

    WFD - Thank you!

  8. If I look at one more delicious looking bread recipe today I might explode. Once Passover is over I have to make something.

  9. Hallie Fae - Let us know what you decided to try first!