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Holiday Mini Loaves

Holiday Gifts: Homemade Mini Loaves

I love this time of year. The trees, the lights, the glittery storefronts, the Christmas music, the parties…in fact, for the month of December, I don’t even mind the cold. Everything about this season seems magical–so expectant and filled with hope. But most of all, I love holiday baking. There’s just something so cozy about an apartment filled with the smells of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves–and Micheal Bublé crooning Christmas tunes from Pandora. (Brandon doesn’t quite agree with the last part, but he thankfully indulges my Christmas fantasy!)

This year, in lieu of store bought gifts, I thought it would be fun to create some homemade treats for friends and family. I have such fond memories as a kid, of my mom’s friends popping over during the holidays with homemade goodies: cookies, caramel popcorn, fudge, and mini loaves of bread. Sure, maybe not the healthiest of fare, but I remember how fun it was to get these beautifully wrapped offerings that were made with such love. Why not bring this same holiday tradition into the city?



For my big baking project, I decided to make mini loaves because they are 1) easy 2) really cute and 3) they can be made in a variety of flavors. I pulled out a few of my trusty holiday recipes–delicate cranberry orange bread with walnut streusel topping, and pumpkin chocolate chip (same as my favorite pumpkin spice muffin recipe)–as well as a new one: old-fashioned gingerbread.

Since I didn’t have a good recipe for gingerbread, I reached out to some friends for ideas. My friend Emily sent me an old family recipe (thank you!) which I ended up using, with a few tweaks. I substituted the shortening for butter, the white sugar for dark brown, and added a few more spices (extra ginger + some nutmeg). But the end result was just what I was hoping for: super dense, moist, and intensely spicy.



You need just a few things to make your own mini loaves. First, get some nonstick 5 1/2″ x 3″ x 2 1/4 mini loaf pans. I bought mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond–a set of four is just $9.99. Next, figure out which recipes you want to make and stock up on your baking ingredients: flour, sugar, spices, eggs, butter, etc. I love Trader Joe’s for this…the amount of money I save buying baking ingredients there is absolutely worth the time spent waiting in line. Last, stop by a craft or stationary store and stock up on pretty ribbons and a few gift tags (I used some pre-made ones…you could of course make your own if you’re really feeling creative!).



Once you’ve baked your bread, let them cool completely on a cooling rack before wrapping them. Wrap them carefully in plastic wrap, tie a big ‘ol pretty bow around them, and pick out a gift card. So Martha Stewart, yet so simple. The only problem is that so many of the loaves seem to disappear before they actually get wrapped up and given away. Must be the cats again…

CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAD WITH WALNUT STREUSEL

Makes 3 mini loaves

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cranberry Orange Bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons), softened
1 egg
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray three 5 1/2″ x 3″ x 2 1/4 mini loaf pans with vegetable oil cooking spray or grease with a little butter or vegetable oil.

Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl for streusel. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the (rinsed and dried) cranberries.

In a separate bowl, cream the sugar, butter, and egg with electric beaters. Add the zest and juice, stirring to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture to the orange mixture, stirring to combine.

Scrape the batter (it will be thick) into the prepared pans with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle with streusel topping and place on the center rack of the oven.

Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the streusel topping is nicely browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pans and continue cooling directly on the rack. Or, slice and serve warm with a pot of tea!

OLD-FASHIONED GINGERBREAD

Makes 3 mini loaves

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup (dark or blackstrap) molasses
1 cup hot water
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray three 5 1/2″ x 3″ x 2 1/4 mini loaf pans with vegetable oil cooking spray or grease with a little butter or vegetable oil.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add egg. In a separate bowl, combine the molasses with the water; slowly whisk into the butter mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and beat (or whisk) until smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans (they’ll be about half-full). Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a loaf comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and continue cooling directly on the rack. Or, slice and serve warm with homemade whipped cream or lemon curd!

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP BREAD

Makes 4 mini loaves

4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray four 5 1/2″ x 3″ x 2 1/4 mini loaf pans with vegetable oil cooking spray or grease with a little butter or vegetable oil.

Beat the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin in a large bowl until smooth, using a hand-held mixer. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

With the mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix until almost combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans (they’ll be about 3/4 full). Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the tops are puffed up and lightly browned, and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a loaf comes out clean. Let cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pans and continue cooling directly on the rack.



  • http://www.facebook.com/bsunderman1 Becky Sunderman

    Thanks so much for posting these recipes. There are only two of us at home now, and these mini loaves are just the right size for us. They freeze quite well, as do the large size muffins, so that we can have a great variety of desserts available at any time, in addition to having delicious gifts for family and friends.

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  • Roseygirl

    I made the gingerbread loaves. There was way too much batter to fill pans half full. So I filled them a little fuller. Right now they are overflowing in the oven. Was the measurements ( like water) really 1 cup?

    • annawatsoncarl

      Hi Rosey,
      I just re-tested the recipe this afternoon to see what the problem was. Mine turned out just fine, though I filled them more like 2/3 full (I will change that in the recipe). They rose to the top, but didn’t overflow. I’m wondering if you were using pans that were too small? My mini-loaf pans are 5 1/2″ x 3″ x 2 1/4.” If yours were any smaller, I could see how they could overflow. Or maybe did you put too much baking powder? As a rule of thumb, when I’m using small loaf pans or ramekins, I like to put them on a baking sheet to prevent any dripping. Sorry for your baking disaster – hope you have better luck next time!
      Best,
      Anna


My name is Anna Watson Carl. In a word, I love food, I love France, and I love throwing dinner parties. Over the years, I've worked as a personal chef, taught cooking classes, edited cookbooks, written for magazines, tested and styled recipes, and traveled whenever opportunity has arisen. But at heart, there's nothing I love more than sharing a meal with friends around the yellow table.

For me, cooking has always been a way of life. As a (mildly precocious) ten-year old, I planned and prepared a four-course Valentine's dinner for my parents, birthing a lifelong passion for dinner parties. That was just the beginning. I've been cooking ever since, whipping up souffles at a chateau in Burgundy, searing filet mignon for a wealthy client's dog (bizarre, but true), butchering ducks for confit de canard in Paris, baking the night shift in Nashville, and bathing the floor of my NYC apartment in turkey brine...the story continues.

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