Pineapple Cranberry Nut Bread

When I was in the seventh grade every kid had to take courses in both shop and home economics. The school year was broken into eight segments and the first segment was electricity class. During this class students were taught about ohms, volts, watts, and alternating and direct currents. In the classroom there was a series of boards that had terminals, switches, and a light bulb mounted to them. The goal was to take wires and connect the switches and terminals in the proper order so when a battery was attached the light bulb would work properly. If you completed all the boards properly I guess you got a better grade. The second segment was wood shop. In this class we learned how to use basic woodworking tools like a hammer and saw and by the end of the class you had made a note pad and pencil holder in the shape of a donkey. The third segment was printing class, where we learned about the printing press, typesetting, typefaces, and that sort of thing. Keep in mind the home computer was not widely available at this point so typesetting was a very hands-on thing. In this printing class we even were taught how to make our own paper, which was fun. The forth segment I have absolutely no recollection as to its focus. My guess is it would have been metal shop but obviously it did not make a lasting impression whatever it was. After all of the shop classes were completed was when the real fun started; segments five through eight were home economics. In these last four segments there were only two classes, sewing and cooking. I was lucky that the teacher for the sewing and cooking classes was a person whose family I knew outside of school. So while other boys were somewhat uncomfortable learning to sew (you know the macho boy thing) for me it was like seeing a friend everyday that happened to be able to show me some new things. The sewing class taught me how to use a sewing machine, how to hand stitch and to understand fabrics and patterns. It was where I learned that your shoes should match your belt, and that short people should avoid horizontal stripes. For our projects each kid in class was tasked with creating two items. The first item was a cloth backpack and everybody made the same thing with similar fabrics. The second was a pattern that we picked out and a fabric we chose as well. I tried to make a button down shirt...emphasis on tried. I am pretty sure I got it put together but it was un-wearable (hey, when you’re twelve, sleeves are really hard).

The cooking class was, in my opinion, the best of all the classes. The class was grouped into four students per station and at the end of each week we had to use the skills we learned during the week to prepare some type of food. I don't recall any of the food we made in cooking class with the exception of the star of this post... Pineapple Cranberry Nut Bread. Each student was assigned a different task each time we made something. One week you would prep the ingredients, the next week you would be mixing and putting everything together, the third week you were on clean up duty and the final week you were the person in charge telling each of the other kiddos what they should be doing and making sure everything was completed on time. Since there were four kids in each station everything that was made was divided into four parts. So for this quick bread the batter was divided into four little loaf pans and each kid got to take one home. I remember how great this little loaf of bread looked in its silvery aluminum pan, a golden brown domed top. There may have even been a slight crack running down the center and when they cooled we wrapped them in a bright cellophane wrapper and tied a handmade ornament (it was around Christmas when we made these) to the top using curling ribbon. I don't remember when I actually ate it, but I can tell you that I never forgot how good it was. For years I would talk about this bread every time I saw fresh cranberries, regaling any one who would listen about my home economics class and this perfect little loaf of bread I had made in junior high school! Finally one day, many years later, I sent a letter to my home economics teacher and asked her if she remembered teaching us that recipe and if so, would she mind sending it to me? In my mind I never really expected her to write back, but she did and not just with a form letter. In her return letter she wrote that not only did she remember the recipe, but that many, many of her former students over the years, had contacted her with the very same request. Now I know we are all accustomed to emails now, or short text messages that give us an almost immediate response and it might be hard to comprehend having to wait for an actual letter to arrive by regular post, but when I got her letter, with the recipe enclosed, it felt like hearing from a long lost friend. I don't remember a lot of my teachers from school, but she is one of the few I will never forget. She had a huge impact on my life and I am forever grateful to her.

When I make this bread I still divide it between four disposable aluminum loaf pans. I do this for three reasons.

1. This bread makes a wonderful holiday gift. And as you know I believe food should be shared among friends.

2. I like this bread so much that I will just keep eating slice after slice, and since they are these little loafs, I don't feel so bad when I eat a whole one.

3. Well, truth is I have tried to make it in a standard 9x5 loaf pan, but I have had less than perfect results doing it that way. Besides the baking time being indeterminably much longer, I have had loaves that just didn't fully bake in the middle and they collapsed. When they are baked through sometimes the crust of the bread is way to... well, crusty, which can give a bad bitter taste to the bread overall. Other loaves came out too dense, and some others would rise on the sides but not in the center even though they were baked through. I am sure there is some adjusting that could be made when baking it into a standard sized pan to get a perfect loaf but I'm not smart enough to break that code. So I am going to leave it to all you experts out there that might read this to let me know your thoughts and ideas.

And I'm also going to ask all you pros out there for comments on my most plaguing problem I have when I make this. Often, my loaves don't form that nice domed top like they did in junior high; they rise to the top edge of the pan and then just sort of stop. So the top of the loaf is fairly flat. There is nothing at all wrong with the bread, it still tastes great… but it’s just missing that dome. So help me out here folks, is it the mixing, the temperature of the oven, the greasing of the pan, or am I missing something else? Truth of the matter is that when I got the recipe from my teacher, I transferred it to a notebook I was collecting other recipes in at the time and the picture below is how I wrote it down, so it's possible I am missing some key part. Any ideas? If you're not a pro (like me), this is the perfect time to share this blog with a friend of yours who might be! Feel free to pass it to a friend who has a friend who knows someone who is a baker. And Mrs. Davis, if you're reading... feel free to chime in too!

This is how I transcribed the recipe more than 30 tears ago...

This is how I transcribed the recipe more than 30 tears ago...

Of course the non-domed top aside, this is still one of my very, very, very, very favorite things to bake (and eat). Every time I see fresh cranberries at the store I start thinking about this bread and I make it many times every year, it's just that good. I really like the flavor of the cranberries and the bits of pineapple are terrific. Spread a little butter on a slice and... egads that's good. On cool winter nights a slice or two (or three) with a cup of good tea (try either “Christmas Eve” tea, or “White Christmas” tea - both made by Stash) and you'll start thinking you should bake a few more loaves right away.

This is just a simple quick bread so it goes together very quickly and you'll not need any special equipment. In fact you don't even use an electric mixer, the whole thing is done by hand. You will need four disposable mini loaf pans (about 5 x 3 x 2 inches), which you can pick up in almost any grocery store.

Before we start here's a little note about the pineapple used in the recipe. Yes, it comes from a can, but that's ok. The recipe calls for ½ cup canned pineapple tidbits. You will usually find them made by Dole, in the canned fruit section. You will want to drain them but reserve the juice as that is the primary liquid used in the bread. Pineapple tidbits are small wedges of pineapple and if you can't find them in your store purchase instead a can of sliced pineapple and simply cut the rings into wedges about ½ inch wide. Avoid crushed pineapple as that really doesn't work in this recipe.

Ok, so here is how this comes together in my house.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

  • ⅔ cup pineapple juice (use the juice from the canned pineapple below)

  • ⅓ cup water

  • ½ cup canned pineapple tidbits, well drained.

  • 1 cup halved cranberries

  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

  • Nonstick cooking spray (for greasing the pans)

Directions

Start by preheating the oven to 350°F with the rack in the center position.

Grease the insides of the loaf pans, with the cooking spray and set aside.

Take a large bowl and in it whisk together the flour, the sugar, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt.

In a second bowl whisk together the egg, the butter, the pineapple juice and the water, until well mixed.

Now, make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg and juice mixture. Using a wooden spoon (or any other type spoon you wish) stir the wet ingredients into the flour just enough to get everything mixed together.

On top of the batter sprinkle the cranberries, the pineapple tidbits, and the nuts and gently fold them into the batter with your spoon.

Divide the batter between the four loaf pans and place in the oven to bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.

Test the loaves by inserting a toothpick into the center which should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs on it. Alternately use an instant read thermometer which should read 190°F.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack until completely cool, no need to remove them from the foil pans, until you're ready to eat them.

I hope you try this quick bread, it really is one of my favorite things of all time and I hope it becomes one of your favorite things too.

Now if you did make it, did your bread get a nice dome or did it stay flat? Do you have any tips for me? Let me know. No matter how old this post is when you read it, I would love to hear from you and feel free to send me a picture of your bread.

I'm pretty sure Riley thinks if he stares at it hard enough, it will eventually fall to the floor and then it's fair game!