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Friday, April 5, 2013

Wonderful Orange Butter...and a Quick Apricot Bread on Which to Spread It



Sometimes the best place to start with a cooking or baking project is with the sides or accompaniments. Think about your basic boneless, skinless chicken breasts. On their own, they are really pretty tasteless and, well, dull. However, prepare some great sauce or cook up a vegetable side and add some marinaded and braised chicken cubes and you have something spectacular--or at least a dish your family and guests will ask for again and again.

The Orange Butter in today's post has the characteristic of dressing up all manner of breads, from plain dinner rolls (maybe left over for a day or two and needing to be warmed and perked up with something like this) to old-style muffins (you know, the kind that never had so much sugar and fat in the basic recipe) to quick breads like the apricot nut version included today.

Whatever you serve it on, there will be an added burst of enthusiasm for your efforts--even though this is super easy to make. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week and has the great advantage of being spreadable while still fully chilled. So go ahead and try a batch, even if all you have to spread it on is some basic store-bought bread.

Orange Butter Spread

1/4 c butter
1/4 c low fat cream cheese
2 T fresh-squeezed orange juice--don't worry if there is pulp included
1 t or so grated orange rind (may be omitted if you just don't have the patience for grating)
1 to 2 t powdered sugar, to taste

1.  Cut the butter and cream cheese into small chunks and put in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on Low power in the microwave for about 45 seconds, or until both are soft enough to spread.
2.  Add in the orange juice and rind and stir all together until well blended.
3.  Stir in the powdered sugar to taste.

This can be served immediately or refrigerated for later use. Recipe is easily doubled.

Substitution: If you don't have fresh oranges available, a tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate (don't dilute) can be substituted for the fresh juice. However, this is really best with fresh oranges.




Now, for something to put the spread on. I found a wonderful buy on dried apricots recently, so I have lots to use for eating (a wonderful snack for anyone with a sweet tooth) and baking. This quick bread recipe is adapted from a cookbook I used regularly way back in the 70s.  (No longer in print, A World of Breads by Dolores Casella is still a great reference and idea starter, and I recommend it highly if you ever find it in a used book store.)

If you haven't noticed before, I rely on my food processor a lot, and this was an ideal place to use it. However, I have added a suggested method following the main recipe if you don't have this wonderful appliance. Either way, the bread is hearty, tasty, and the perfect foil for Orange Butter, and much easier to make than the rather complicated directions might indicate.

Just one more thing--this bread is best made the day before serving. While tasty the first day, it has a tendency to crumble and is far harder to slice nicely early on.

Apricot Nut Bread

1/2 c sugar
1/4 c canola oil
1 egg
1 c yogurt
1/2 c GrapeNuts cereal (store brands of this "nutty nugget" cereal are fine)
1 c rehydrated, dried apricots (see step 1 below)
2 t grated orange rind
2 c flour
4 t baking powder
1/2 t soda
1 c walnut pieces

1.  Measure one cup dried apricot halves, packing them a bit. Place in a microwave-safe dish, add about 1/2 cup water, just barely enough to cover. Cover the container and microwave for about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

2.  Meanwhile, combine the yogurt and the cereal in a two cup measure and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.

3.  Pulse the walnuts in the food processor with the metal chopping blade. Remove the nuts. Pour the apricots and the liquid in which they were cooked into the processor, still with the metal chopping blade, and process until quite finely chopped.

4.  It may be a little messy, but remove the metal blade and replace with the plastic dough blade, even as you leave the apricots in the bowl of the processor. Now add the sugar, oil, egg, orange rind, and yogurt-Grapenuts mixture. Process until this mixture is completely blended.

5.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and soda and add to the processor bowl. Mix, using the pulse setting, only long enough to blend the mixture. It will be thick, so you may need to scrape down the sides once or twice. The key is to not overbeat at this stage. 

6.  Add the nuts and again, pulse just a couple of times, only enough to blend them into the batter.

7.  Pour the batter into two well oiled loaf pans (about 4 1/2 X 8 inch). Bake at 350 for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Alternate Mixing Method

Preparation:
Use a blender to chop the apricots after cooking OR chop them manually (kitchen scissors work best) before or after cooking.

Chop or grind the nuts with your usual nut grinder OR purchase chopped walnuts.

1.  Prepare the yogurt and GrapeNuts as in step 2 above.
2.  Beat together the oil, sugar, egg, orange rind and softened yogurt/GrapeNuts mixture.
3.  Sift together the dry ingredients and stir into the liquid ingredients. Stir only enough to be sure all the dry material is moistened.
3.  Fold in the nuts and proceed as in step 7 above.

Alternate Ingredients

Though I have not tried this, the original recipe called for "bran" instead of GrapeNuts, with no soaking step. My guess is that Ms. Casella may have been speaking of AllBran cereal rather than plain wheat bran. I'd be interested if anyone tries one or the other variation, to see what your results are.











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