Blueberry Bread and Bunko

I was invited to attend a birthday celebration for my 87 year old neighbor this past weekend and wanted to bake Alice a small treat for her enjoyment later. I also needed to return recently borrowed camping gear to another friend and wanted to take along a little thank you gift for her, too.
Gift loaves of Blueberry Hazelnut Bread came to mind, since I’m still dealing with the balance of my last blueberry picking foray. Oregon blueberries are compact little morsels that aren’t terribly sweet, and to compensate for that, I wanted to add another ingredient that could offer up a little more natural sweetness and moisture. In my recipe collection, I found a cleaver idea: crushed pineapple.
Frequently, sweet breads can be loaded with oil–which I find completely unnecessary and unimaginative. Applesauce has long been regarded as a beneficial and handy substitute for some of that excess oil; so, why not pineapple? The only caveat I might offer, is to drain the pineapple well; if you add some of the lovely pineapple liquor, do so sparingly, because the batter thins quickly.
When making blueberry muffins, I like the gentle addition of a tiny bit of nutmeg. Here instead, allspice is used, which is the heavy hitter in the nutmeg spice spectrum—and is a true and loving companion to pineapple. These flavors are instrumental in Caribbean cuisine, so perhaps this is also a slight homage to an idyllic month long stay in Grenada, the heart of nutmeg and allspice country.
Quick breads are by name, easy to create; I used a mixer, but a good whisk would incorporate the eggs and sugar just as well. In the past I have made similar breads to round out luncheon plates, and the slight sweetness of fruit bread is the perfect accompaniment with a chicken or seafood salad. However, if you are baking a stand alone tea bread for general snacking, a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar added to the granulated sugar will give a slight bump in the sweetness.
Since these were gifts, I finished the loaves with a drizzle of confectioner’s sugar thinned with lemon juice. After they were cooled and firmly set, I wrapped them in colorful plastic film gathered up and tied with raffia bows.
As a footnote, the loaves were a huge success. I spent the afternoon with Alice’s friends and family experiencing my first ever Bunko phenomenon – a spirited dice game, where one moves from table to table lured by laughter and high stakes. I carried home a bite-size chocolate bar as one of the top three winners. Now, I feel as if I am firmly planted in Oregon. What’s next, Bingo?
Blueberry Hazelnut BreadThis slightly sweet bread is good with luncheon salad—chicken or crab. Inspired by Elizabeth Terry’s Savannah Seasons
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup crushed pineapple in natural juice, drained
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, chopped

2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with oil, two – 6 cup loaf pans.
Sift dry ingredients. In mixer, beat eggs with sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well, and stir in the dry ingredients.

Fold in the pineapple, nuts and berries, and pour into pans. Bake 1 hour, turn out and cool on rack before slicing with serrated knife. Yield: 2 loaves ~~

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