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Quick breads for busy holiday mornings

A quick bread filled with cranberry and nuts offers a dose of holiday flavors to breakfast.
A quick bread filled with cranberry and nuts offers a dose of holiday flavors to breakfast.

When the snow's blowing, there's nothing more comforting than the aroma of bread baking in the oven. With the holidays coming up, the smells of cinnamon or apples just add to the season's spirit.

We've had early snow this year, and that made me start looking at my quick bread recipes. I like starting winter mornings in a warm kitchen, looking out at the snow with a slice of bread and a cup of coffee.

I like to find holiday recipes that are easily baked, taste sweet and do not take up a lot of my time. Quick breads fit that description, and they're so versatile, I can find most of the ingredients in my pantry.

What is a quick bread?

Quick bread simply means there's no yeast involved, so you can say goodbye to kneading and rising times. Instead of yeast, they use baking powder or baking soda as the leavening agent. While quick breads can include anything from muffins and biscuits to scones and coffee cakes, they can be everything from banana nut and lemon breads to pumpkin and apple loaf breads. They keep well, they're great for breakfast or a quick afternoon snack, and they even make great Christmas gifts.

So, try baking up a quick bread or two if your holiday season days are hectic. If you're a chocolate lover, try making the Starbucks chocolate cinnamon bread. If you think eggnog is the only drink during Christmas, try a slice of rum eggnog bread for a scrumptious breakfast — no eggs required unless you want them.

Starbucks chocolate cinnamon bread

3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

3 cups granulated sugar

5 large eggs at room temperature

2 cups flour

1 1⁄4 cup Dutch processed cocoa (or regular cocoa)

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Topping

1⁄4 cup granulated sugar

3⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄2teaspoon dutch processed cocoa (or regular cocoa)

Pinch of ground ginger

Pinch of ground cloves

1⁄4 cup sparkle sugar for decorating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In 2-cup measuring cup, combine buttermilk, water and vanilla. Stir to mix. Add dry ingredients to butter/sugar/eggs alternating with buttermilk mixture. Scrape sides and bottom of mixing bowl at least twice. Pour into prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle topping over batter.

Bake time: mini loaves 25 min.; small loaves 35 min.; large loaves 45 to 50 min.

Rhonda's cranberry bread

Makes 1 large loaf or 3 mini loaves.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

1 cup cranberries, fresh whole

3⁄4 cups orange juice

1⁄4 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon orange rind, fresh grated

Stir together in large bowl: flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, soda and salt. When well blended, add walnuts and cranberries. Stir to coat nuts and berries. In separate bowl, stir orange juice, vegetable oil, egg and orange rind with fork until well blended. Pour over dry ingredients; stir just until dry ingredients are completely blended into wet ingredients. Pour into greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or 3 mini-loaf pans (line bottom with wax paper). Bake 350 for 60 to 70 minutes. Check it at 60 minutes — top should feel firm, not soft, when gently pushed. Turn out on cake rack to cool.

Holiday rum eggnog bread

Makes 1 to 3 loaves

2 eggs

1 cup eggnog

2 teaspoons rum extract

2 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup walnuts, chopped

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 cup white sugar

1⁄2 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease only bottom of 9-by-5-inch loaf pan (or three 5 3/4-by-3 1/4-inch loaf pans). In large bowl, beat eggs. Blend in sugar, eggnog, butter, rum extract and vanilla extract. Combine flour, baking powder, walnuts, salt and nutmeg, stirring to combine. Mix into eggnog mixture; stir just enough to moisten dry ingredients. Pour batter into pan(s). If baking bread in large pan, bake 40 to 60 minutes, or until a tester in center comes out clean. If baking bread in smaller pans, bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Cool completely, then wrap tightly. Keep in refrigerator.

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