Fruit-and-Nut or Vegetable and-Nut Bread

Makes 1 loaf
Time: About 1 1/4 hours

This is the master recipe for making a whole family of breads, like Cranberry-Pecan, Zucchini-Sunflower, and Carrot-Walnut-you name it. If the fruit is really juicy (like peaches), put the pieces in a strainer and let them drain for an hour or so before proceeding. Feel free to experiment with the seasonings and see the variations for some specific combinations. You can also bake these as muffins: Prepare the batter as directed, then divide among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, plus butter for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fruit juice, like orange or apple, or milk
1 tablespoon minced or grated orange or lemon zest
1 egg
1 cup any raw fruit or vegetable: small berries left whole, anything else peeled and grated or chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter.

2. Stir together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into bits, then use a fork, 2 knives, or your fingers to cut or rub it into the dry ingredients until there are no pieces bigger than a small pea. (You can use a food processor for this step, which makes it quite easy, but you should not use a food processor for the remaining steps or the bread will be tough.)

3. Beat together the juice, zest, and egg. Pour into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten; do not beat and do not mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in the fruit and the nuts, then pour and spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about an hour, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Dried Fruit and Nut Bread.

Not as heavy as traditional holiday fruitcake: Instead of the fresh fruit, roughly chop 3/4 cup any dried fruit, alone or in combination.