Don’t bother to preheat the oven for this recipe. The bread is baked, of course, but this is a sort of old-fashioned recipe that starts out in a cold oven and the baking time includes preheating. This is the kind of baking that some older person – we’ll ballpark it at 80 or over – might have once told you leads to moister baked goods because the slow cooking somehow protects the loaf. I can’t guarantee that it will work with other recipes (obviously anything with a short cooking time or high cooking temperature is out), but I can say that it is very true for this particular loaf.
This is a quick bread that is primarily flavored with applesauce, spices and chopped up pecans. Applesauce often enters into recipes as a fat replacer because it adds much-needed moisture to a recipe that has had moisturizing butter or oil removed from it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t replace the texture provided by fat and, as a result, it has gotten kind of a bad reputation for causing toughness or gumminess in baked goods. Rest assured that this isn’t the case here! The applesauce adds flavor and moisture in this loaf, but it doesn’t replace anything else in the recipe.
The result is a delicious loaf that is perfect to slice for a quick breakfast snack. It is very moist and, while sturdy enough to hold up to a good toasting, it is not dense or gummy. In fact, the loaf is quite tender. You can really taste the flavor of the applesauce because the spicing in the loaf is fairly subtle. If you want to further increase the apple flavor, try to use a “chunky” or natural-style applesauce, instead of a smooth one. Pecans or walnuts, or a mixture of the two, are included in the bread to add another level of flavor and to provide some contrasting texture. Toasting the chopped nuts in a skillet over medium heat until golden will deepen their flavor and intensify their crunchy texture. If you prefer not to use nuts, you can substitute in raisins or other dried fruits.
I’ve noticed that some newer ovens preheat much, much faster than older models. You probably know how your oven works by now, but be sure to check your loaf with a toothpick before taking it out of the oven to be sure it is done all the way through. Some ovens might cook 5 minutes faster, and some might be a bit slower.
Applesauce Nut Bread
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
coarse sugar, for topping
No need to preheat the oven, just lightly grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch baking pan (not a 9×5).
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by the applesauce.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. By hand, or with a mixer on low speed, beat flour mixture into applesauce mixture. Stir in toasted nuts and pour into prepared pan. Top with coarse sugar, if desired.
Place pan in a cold oven and turn oven on to 350F.
Bake for 80-90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top of the loaf is browned.
Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 1 loaf.