Friday, September 26, 2008

Cream Cheese-Apple-Nut Bread

I was sitting in my chiropractor's office last Friday morning, reading a back issue of Southern Living Magazine. It was ironic since I was due to attend a Southern Living at Home party that very night. Well, I came across the most delicious-looking recipe for a banana bread. I had no ripe bananas at home but I kept thinking that this recipe could be very tasty if I made it with apples. I knew I had an 8 oz package of organic cream cheese getting ready to expire in my fridge, too. I had a few Honey Crisp Apples in my refrigerator and a large bottle of natural apple sauce. My creative juices started flowing (which is a rare event). I high-tailed it to the market to buy some pecans and then went straight home to bake Cream Cheese-Apple-Nut Bread! What I did with this recipe changes it significantly but I want to credit the original chef. According to the magazine article, the original recipe was sent to Southern Living Magazine by Willie Monroe from Homewood, Alabama. Thank you Willie! I used regular cream cheese because that is what I had and I cooked one of the honey crisp apples for about 10 minutes in a saucepan to give the cake a bit of crunch. You can use only the applesauce but I thought the addition of the apple did something really nice for the bread. I did not follow the suggestion of toasting the pecans just to save time.

Cream Cheese-Apple-Nut Bread

Makes 2 loves

1-1/4 cups chopped pecans, divided

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 (8-oz) package 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1-1/2 cups applesauce (or one or two lightly cooked and diced apples plus applesauce)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 3/4 cup pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring after 6 minutes.

2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

3. Combine whole wheat flour and next 4 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in applesauce and apples, 3/4 cup toasted pecans, and vanilla. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup pecans or topping (recipe below).

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides of bread pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil during last 15 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks. Let cool 30 minutes.

Note: You can store these loaves by wrapping them tightly with plastic wrap and again with aluminum foil after they cool completely. They freeze well for up to 1 month. I doubt they will last that long in your freezer!

As I mentioned, the Southern Living article gave several alternative toppings. The first was a toasted coconut topping. Although I really love coconut, neither my husband nor my son is particularly fond of the stuff so I didn't choose it. The second is a Cinnamon topping which sounded perfect. The third choice involved peanut butter so I knew that one was out. I will say that if you want to top both of your apple loaves with this particular topping, then double it. I was only able to top one of the loves with this recipe. It was delicious.

Cinnamon-Cream Cheese-Apple-Nut Bread (topping recipe)

Prepare recipe as directed through Step 3, omitting the pecans sprinkled over batter. Stir together 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup chopped pecans (not toasted), 1-1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour, 1-1/2 teaspoon melted butter, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Lightly sprinkle mixture over batter in pans. Bake and cool as directed.

I will tell you that I made one "blooper" while I was making the batter for this bread. I was in a hurry to get done so I could be outside when D's bus arrived from school. I grabbed what I thought was vanilla out of my closet and dumped it into the batter. I immediately realized (by the smell) that I had actually grabbed root beer extract and dumped that into the batter. Yikes! I dug all that root beer flavor out and, fortunately, no one said the cake tasted funny so I am thinking I was successful in getting it all out.


The Creative Cook