I've had a bunch of cranberries in my fridge for the longest time. Last week I finally had a moment when I could bake something with them. I wanted to make a quick bread or muffins, and I was looking for something out of the usual cranberry + orange rut. I turned to my overflowing cookbook shelf and found a promising recipe for Cranberry Coffee Cake in the big yellow Gourmet Cookbook. The recipe can be found online also, but I was in a huge hurry so I baked this old school (without first checking my computer or reading any of the reviews.)
I made a few changes to improve the health quotient a bit.
- I used a mix of flours - nearly half AP flour, nearly half white whole wheat, and a couple generous spoonfuls of oat flour.
- Instead of eggs I used 1/2 cup of egg substitute.
- I cut the sugar by 1/4 cup.
- Skim milk instead of whole milk
- I used my wonderful long slim loaf pan, and lined it with parchment so that I could just pull out the loaf when it was finished cooking. It was a tiny bit tricky to cover the cranberry layers with the cake batter. I tried hard to leave a sufficient margin of cake around each of the cranberry layers so that the cake would not separate when sliced.
- Baked it at 325 convect for around 40 minutes. Luckily it's supposed to cool in the pan, so I just threw it in the car and raced to book group.
- I saved the liquid from draining the cranberries and sugar, and simmered it to make a cranberry syrup. This was good on the floating islands and great stirred into yogurt.
We ate this while it was still a bit warm, and although the slicing was tricky the cake was delicious. There's always great coffee at book group, so we had a perfect accompaniment. The cake was very enthusiastically received, with everyone trying to guess the ingredients.
The cake is really pretty, with its cranberry veins alternating with layers of plain cake. It's a whole lot more dramatic in appearance than if the cranberries were distributed evenly throughout. The flavor is improved by the layers too, imo. I love how the pure shot of cranberry plays off against the soft buttery cake flavors.
It's very easy to cut off just another taste of this cake! In comparing notes with a fellow book group-mate, AT, we determined that neither of us is an orange-flavored baked goods kind of person. If you are, you could easily add some zest or juice. The comments to the online recipe are filled with folks who added orange flavors (and also nuts). Personally I love the simplicity and the plain cranberry goodness of the original cake.
After baking this I decided to experiment with making it even more low in fat - substituting some of the butter with Greek yogurt and light flavor olive oil. (I used half the butter and the other 4 T was an even mix of nonfat Greek yogurt and olive oil. I again used egg substitute and skim milk, but this time replaced the vanilla with almond extract. I baked it in a standard shaped loaf pan. We liked this version too, although it was the tiniest bit dryer and not as complex a flavor. It was still good, especially for an everyday breakfast, where it was special enough to encourage a cheerful attitude to start the day, but healthy enough not to lead to guilt!
I happened on the page of one blogger who is cooking her way through the Gourmet book (she's actually not the only one) and chronicling her experience at The Gourmet Project. Her blog makes for an interesting read; you can see her experience with this cake here.
If you have some cranberries in your fridge or freezer, this would make a great cake for a Valentine's Day breakfast, or really any time you want a showy, delicious quick bread.