Zucchini bread, pumpkin bread and carrot cake all originated as creative ways to use the garden's abundance. These baked goods take advantage of the bulk, moisture and intrinsic sweetness grated fruit and vegetables provide. Harvest bread is a quick bread that takes advantage of the same qualities, but it is a little different from these for two reasons. First, it uses any combination of available fruit and vegetables. Second, it is steamed like a pudding or custard, rather than baked.
Steaming was a way to produce moist bread using a wood burning stove. Wood burners have no way to control the internal temperature, and placing the baking pan in a larger pan filled with water ensured that the bread would bake at a steady 212 degrees, or the temperature at which water boils. Further, baking at a low temperature helped retain the volatile oils of the spices added. Finally, the steam created during baking infused the bread with moisture; commercial bakeries use ovens that have a steaming unit attached for this reason. The end result was a soft bread redolent with the flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and other spices.
This harvest bread can also be considered heart healthy. Other than eggs, there are no fats added to the batter. It contains whole wheat flour as well as all purpose flour, and the grated vegetables and fruit provide ample fiber as well as color and flavor.
Steamed Harvest Bread
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. spice mix (your choice - cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom)
1 c. yogurt, buttermilk or sour milk
1 to 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 c. grated or chopped fruit and / or vegetables (apples, pears, cranberries, peeled sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, summer squash, peeled parsnips, peeled beets)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Add sugar and spices; beat until sugar is dissolved.
Alternate additions of flour mixture and milk or yogurt, beating well between each addition.
Grease a 2 quart pudding mold or Bundt pan. Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly. Place pan into larger oven safe bowl or kettle; surround with boiling water that goes 2/3 of the way to the top of the mold. Cover kettle and place in oven.
Steam bread for 2 hours or until cake tester comes out clean. Serve bread with cream cheese or honey butter.
Because this bread is steamed, it can also be made on top of the stove.
Check water level in kettle after 45 minutes or so and refill if too much as evaporated.
Because the bread contains so much moisture, it's best to refrigerate any leftovers.
Mashed pumpkin, squash or leftover cranberry sauce can be substituted for grated fresh vegetables.