January is supposed to be a time of dietary atonement. Annually, all around the nation, people step on sales after the holiday cookies and grimace. Despite the cold that nudges us toward cozier, heavier foods, we are actually burning fewer calories in near-hibernation. So how do you address those persistent sweet attacks?
Local, winter squash is still pretty easy to find in the Hudson Valley, so I work with those to create sweet but healthier goodies. Of course, canned squash or pumpkin will work just as well (and is sometimes less fibrous). This sweet bread is a treat for breakfast but is especially welcome at an early sunset with hot tea or milky coffee. Wait a bit for the loaf to cool well so it will slice better.
The apricots keep it moist and reduce the sugar and oil needed. More spices (cloves? allspice?), or merging them by substituting pumpkin-pie spice, are just fine. I like to bake small loaves and freeze one, but for an impressive gift, make a larger loaf. Just poke a toothpick into the middle to be sure it’s thoroughly cooked.
Recipe: Squash-Apricot Sweet Bread
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 /2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- zest of one orange, chopped
- 15-ounce can squash purée or 2 cups cooked pumpkin or winter squash, mashed
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two small loaf pans or one larger 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
Combine all dry ingredients, including the spices and the apricots, in a large bowl.
In another bowl combine the remaining wet ingredients. Stir the pumpkin mix, winter squash or squash purée into the dry mix and blend well. Pour into loaf pan(s) and bake 50 to 60 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through.