Sunday, December 11, 2011

Apple Cranberry Bread

Last week was really hectic for me.  It was one of those end of the semester weeks where you have something that you have to do every day.  I had a conference paper due to the respondent on Monday, a draft of my dissertation prospectus due to my seminar on Tuesday, an Italian translation exam on Wednesday, and was presenting/getting feedback on my prospectus on Thursday.  Needless to say, I didn't have any time to update before that and after that I crashed for a couple days and more or less did nothing.  I'll try to make up having missed last week with an extra post this week.

Friday, December 2 was my department's Advent celebration, so I decided (like I did last year and the year before) to make a dessert in the crock pot.  Because I've been trying to be healthier recently, instead of making cookies or cake like I had before, I decided to try out the Apple Cranberry Bread from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker cookbook.  Of course, the other reason I decided to make this was that the fresh cranberries were on sale when I went grocery shopping the week before, so I looked for something to do with them.

Now, the thing about these recipes that you bake in the slow cooker is that you're not really saving time because you have to do the same exact amount of work as you would baking something in the oven.  I still find it really cool, however, that you can bake in the slow cooker and the longer cooking time could still be useful if there's other things that you have to do OR you have to go out of the house and so can't leave the oven on OR if you're cooking other things and need to keep your oven free.

Before preparing the ingredients, you're going to want to do two things.  First, grease a baking dish that fits into your slow cooker, then put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Both of these things will be used later.  Then you mix the dry ingredients together: flour, flax seeds, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon.  Separately you beat together the wet ingredients, one of which, as you can see in the image above (on the right), is orange juice.  You don't have to use fresh orange juice, of course, but because the recipe also calls for orange zest and says that the amount you need is the juice of 1 large navel orange AND because my parents got me the juicer attachment for my KitchenAid for my birthday this year, I squeezed the juice fresh.

Anyway, you beat together all the wet ingredients, which include sugar, olive oil, egg, and the orange zest/juice.  Then you add the dry ingredients and stir in the apple and cranberries.  Now, I took the bowl off the mixer and "folded" in the apple and cranberries but I'd actually recommend doing it with the mixer if you can--the dough is really hard to manipulate by hand.
After everything is mixed together, you pour the mix into the greased pan and place it in the slow cooker.  Then take the water off the stove, which should be boiling by now, and pour it into your slow cooker around the pan until the water comes 1 inch up the side of the baking pan.  The bread takes about 4 hours to cook, though test it with a toothpick in the center to be sure.  I'm also a bit paranoid about the baked goods in the crock pot because the moisture of the crock pot makes the dish seem uncooked.  I actually checked it after 4 hours, then left it on to cook a little longer while I got ready for the Advent celebration.

So this is what it looked like when it was done.

The cook thing about this bread is, as the cookbook says, it can be "a great snack, a nutritious desert and can even be eaten for breakfast."  I cut it into 12 pieces and put it on a paper plate to bring to the Advent celebration--unfortunately because I was trying to get everything done and get out the door in the end, I forgot to take a picture of the final presentation.  My husband and I took a taste before we went out the door, however, and it was AMAZING.  As my husband said, "$#%^&%* bomb."

Now, the cookbook says that this dish serves 8, but clearly it matters how you cut it.  Since I cut it into 12 pieces, the calories come out to be about 205, but if you cut it into bigger pieces, obviously it would be more calories.  The really cool thing about this recipe, however, is that making this bread cost me all of $4.99 to make (so, all of $0.42 per serving)!  The only things I purchased were the fresh cranberries and whole wheat flour.  If you bake regularly, you'll probably have most of the ingredients on hand and so will only need to purchase, maybe, the flax seeds, cranberries, and an orange.  I already had the orange, via my organic produce delivery that I get each week, and the flax seeds because my mom got me to start putting some on my cereal.  Technically the recipe calls for half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour, but I'm sure if you didn't want to spend the money to get whole wheat flower and only had all-purpose flour (or vice versa) it'd be fine.  Anyway, to sum up: this was really good, I highly recommend it, and I'd make it again with the leftover cranberries if I didn't have some plans for chutney, which can also be made in the crock pot.

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