It’s about time I posted something healthy because I just know I will go nuts over BAD FOR YOU recipes as the silly season descends. This is my version of a wonderful prune bread recipe by James Beard. I remember finding his book Beard On Bread in my local library as a teenager. I loved this book. The prune bread recipe was my favourite as it’s moist and full of flavour but low in fat. Seems like disrespect to change it. But, could it be made even better? You betcha! Years ago, I adapted the recipe to make it more healthy but mostly it’s the addition of orange and brandy that makes it fantastic. OK, let’s be clear here … the alcohol evaporates during baking so it’s a little boozy in flavour but has no alcohol. It’s the (now) not-so-secret ingredient that makes this bread special … and prunes and brandy just demand some togetherness. And let’s not forget the orange. This is my humble tribute to Mr. Beard, some of whose recipes I painstakingly copied out by hand because I couldn’t find the book on sale anywhere back then. Hard to imagine now … I hope he’d approve.
The prunes in this bread make it really moist, despite being very low in fat. It keeps well wrapped in foil and stored in a plastic bag or airtight container. Store airtight at room temperature. It will keep for up to a week. You can even store it wrapped in foil, in a freezer bag or airtight container, in the refrigerator in warmer weather.
We love this for breakfast at home, on its own or spread with ricotta or quark. It makes a beautiful change from banana bread. You can make breakfast fancy schmancy and serve it with a dollop of ricotta cream (mix ricotta with low-fat yoghurt and add a little honey or maple syrup to sweeten), drizzled with honey and sprinkled with orange zest and walnuts or a few macerated prunes. It’s also really good with cheese though so it makes a great addition to a cheese board instead of crackers. It goes especially well with sharp cheeses that have bite – aged cheddar or grana padano, that kind of thing.
It’s really important that the prunes macerate in the orange juice and brandy for at least 8 hours (overnight) and up to 24 hours, if possible. Got that? IMPORTANT. It really helps the prunes absorb and intensify the flavours and it makes the world of difference to both the flavour and texture of the bread. I highly recommend planning ahead and macerating the prunes for the full 24 hours to get the best flavour. Enjoy! Pretty much guilt-free!
Makes 1 x 23cm loaf
375 grams pitted prunes
1 large orange
1/4 cup brandy
2 large eggs
250 ml skim milk or buttermilk *
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups plain flour (white or wholemeal)**
1/2 cup walnut pieces (optional)
* You can substitute yoghurt if you like or half yoghurt and half milk. If you are lactose intolerant, use a lactose free milk or almond or coconut milk. These all produce great results.
** If you are gluten sensitive, use a good gluten free flour mix or a gluten-free oat flour.
Chop the prunes and place them in a bowl with the grated zest and juice of the orange, and the brandy. Mix well. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place for at least 8 hours (overnight) and up to 24 hours until ready to use.
Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and milk in a bowl. Stir through the prunes and the remaining juice and brandy.
Sift together the flour and baking powder. If including the walnuts, add these as well. Fold the dry ingredients through the egg and prune mixture with a spatula. Mix until well combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake at 180°C for 45 to 50 minutes. Test with a skewer – it should come out clean and the loaf golden brown on top.
Remove the loaf from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.
Note: Instead of baking in a loaf tin, it’s also great baked as individual muffins. Reduce the baking time to around 20 to 25 minutes and check to see they don’t over bake.