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The holiday season brings out the baker in all of us from the cookies and cakes to the breads to make for the Christmas breakfast and dinner or for gift giving.

Holiday breads, whether it’s the warm, spicy scent of gingerbread, the beautifully fashioned braid of sweet dough and dried fruit or even the humble loaf cake/quick bread are as much a part of the season as Santa and candy canes.

Everyone has a favorite Christmas cookie to be baked or shaped every year, myself included, but I also like to add a different quick bread to the mix so I can have some on hand for breakfast, that midday tea break or for sneaking a midnight snack. A cheerful, colorful loaf of fresh or dried fruit can brighten up any day regardless of the season, and even better, you don’t need any baking expertise to create a rich, warm loaf of goodness.

Loaf cakes and quick breads are a versatile bunch. You can make them in large 9-by-5-inch loaf pans for the whole family to share, or you can divide the batch into mini-loaves and treat your friends to their own personal nibble.

Loaf cakes and quick breads don’t require much gussying up to make them perfect for gift giving. Bake them in disposable tins, there are some pretty gilded ones and printed paper ones so all you need is to tie a pretty ribbon around the middle. To convert a recipe for a full 9-by-5 inch loaf, to mini loaves, figure on about 4-5 of the smaller loaves. The recipe stays the same for either size, but mini-loaves will bake more quickly. Start checking them about halfway through the suggested cooking time for a large loaf — all sizes of loaves are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

On Christmas morning you can offer a variety of breads from a easy-to-make version of stollen or a cherry chocolate coffeecake prepared the night before so that all that’s needed is to slip it into the oven in the morning and serve warm with coffee. That can of pumpkin left over from Thanksgiving pairs so deliciously with ginger and orange, colorful cranberries and almonds are delightful with tea and that glass of eggnog is even better when baked into a bread or muffins. Santa will be jealous that he only got cookies the night before.

Kate Lawson is the retired Detroit News food writer.

katecook@comcast.net

Triple Chocolate Bread

When else but the holidays could you justify eating a big slice of chocolate for breakfast? Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cups milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup white chocolate pieces

1/3 cup dark chocolate pieces

1/3 cup milk chocolate pieces

Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Dark chocolate pieces or milk chocolate pieces, melted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Line bottom of pan with waxed paper or parchment paper; grease paper. Set pan aside. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in white baking pieces, 1/3 cup dark chocolate pieces, and 1/3 cup milk chocolate pieces. Spoon batter into the prepared loaf pan, spreading evenly.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; peel off paper. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

If desired, top each serving with sweetened whipped cream and drizzle with melted chocolate. Makes 12 slices.

Per serving: 334 calories; 16 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 43 percent calories from fat); 46 g carbohydrates; 28 g sugar; 20 mg cholesterol; 217 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Eggnog Muffins

Good in a glass, but great in a muffin, eggnog is the perfect ingredient for a holiday bread. Recipe adapted from Midwest Living

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup dairy eggnog

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

For the Nutmeg-Streusel Topping

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

Grease a dozen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups or line with paper bake cups; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and nutmeg. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In another bowl, combine eggs, eggnog, melted butter, vanilla and rum extract. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full.

For the topping, in a small bowl, mix flour, sugar and nutmeg using pastry blender. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle streusel topping over muffin batter in cups.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.

Per serving: 322 calories; 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 34 percent calories from fat); 48 g carbohydrates; 27 g sugar; 66 mg cholesterol; 202 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Almond Cranberry Bread with White Chocolate Glaze

Recipe adapted from food.com

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 -1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

2/3 cup chopped almonds, toasted

For the white chocolate glaze

1/4 cup white chocolate baking pieces

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon half-and-half

Rinse cranberries in cold water; drain. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Line bottom of pan with waxed paper; grease. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and almond extract. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in cranberries and the chopped almonds. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake in a 325 degrees oven about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

For the white chocolate glaze, in a small, microwave-safe bowl, microwave white baking pieces on 50 percent power (medium) for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring once or twice. Stir in powdered sugar, vanilla and half & half. If necessary, stir in additional half-and-half half, 1 teaspoon at a time, until glaze reaches drizzling consistency. Makes 1/4 cup.

Before serving, unwrap bread. Drizzle with White Chocolate Glaze and, if desired, sprinkle with additional toasted almonds. Makes 1 loaf (12 slices).

Per serving: 310 calories; 11 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 33 percent calories from fat); 46 g carbohydrates; 23 g sugar; 46 mg cholesterol; 285 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Overnight Cherry Chocolate Coffeecake

Recipe adapted from Midwest Living.

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup butter

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

1/2 cup dried tart red cherries

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

One 8-ounce carton dairy sour cream

Grease a 9-inch pie plate. For streusel topping, in a medium bowl, stir together the 2/3 cup flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in the 1/3 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in chocolate pieces and dried cherries. Set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the 1 cup flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat the 1/2 cup butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and sour cream; beat until combined.

Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Spread half of the batter into pie plate. Sprinkle with half of the streusel mixture. Spread on remaining batter and top with remaining streusel topping. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours.

Uncover. Tent with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 591 calories; 30 g fat (18 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 77 g carbohydrates; 45 g sugar; 112 mg cholesterol; 372 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 4 g fiber.

Pumpkin Gingerbread with Orange Glaze

Make one loaf to keep and one loaf to give or make 24 muffins. You can also make 4-5 mini loaves in addition to one full loaf. The recipe stays the same for either size, but mini-loaves will bake more quickly. Start checking them about halfway through the suggested cooking time for a large loaf — all sizes of loaves are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) butter or vegetable shortening

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/3 cup minced candied ginger

1/2 cup diced pecans or 1/2 cup chocolate chips or cinnamon chips, optional

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons molasses

2 cups (or one 15-ounce can) pumpkin purée

For the glaze

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon orange oil or 1 tablespoon orange zest (grated orange rind)

2 tablespoons water or milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pans for loaves; if you’re making muffins, grease 24 muffin cups, or line them with muffin papers.

In a large bowl mix together the butter (or shortening) and brown sugar until well blended.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, ginger, and nuts or chips, if you’re using them. Mix well — the batter will look crumbly.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.

Stir in the molasses and pumpkin, combining well.

Scoop the batter into the greased loaf pans or the muffin cups, filling the cups about 2/3 full.

Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, or until they’re lightly browned on the edges and the middle springs back when touched. Bake the loaves for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes before taking it out of the pan(s). Let it cool a bit, then glaze if desired.

To make the glaze, whisk together all the ingredients, adding extra liquid until the glaze is smooth and the consistency of molasses.

For a shiny finish, brush the glaze over the bread or muffins while they’re still warm; for a thick white finish, cool the bread completely before glazing.

Store well wrapped on the counter for 3 to 4 days; or freeze for up to 3 months. Makes 2 loaves or 24 muffins.

Per serving: 210 calories; 8 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 34 percent calories from fat); 33 g carbohydrates; 19 g sugar; 38 mg cholesterol; 189 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber.

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