This fragrant quick bread is easy to make and even easier to eat. While flipping through one of my old hand-written books of favorite recipes, I came across this Bourbon Pecan Bread. I hadn’t made it in years and the recipe said that it made three mini-loaves. Clearly this was a recipe that I used to make as gifts to friends and teachers. However, I wanted to only make a single larger loaf this time around. Like most quick breads, this one comes together quickly and bakes for about an hour. These breads are really not breads at all but are simple cakes that are perfect with tea or coffee pretty much anytime of day. They all have the traditional crack down the middle that you see in cakes made with baking soda.
Bourbon Pecan Bread doesn’t need any glaze or embellishments. With holidays and maybe even some friends or family visiting, it’s great to have this absolutely wonderful quick bread in your back pocket. The most difficult part will be not jumping in to eat it before its cool. These make wonderful “host/hostess” gifts. And wrap it in some cellophane and tie a pretty bow on for a gift that anyone would be happy to receive.
Now I’m sure that the recipe comes from somewhere. Unfortunately, several decades ago when I was writing it down, I wasn’t concerned with provenance. So, that said, my apologies to whoever conceived the original, wonderful recipe. Though uncredited, it is truly appreciated. I did make a few tweaks, but nothing substantial.
This recipe was made using a food processor. However, it could also be made by hand, or using a hand or stand mixer. There are just a few things to remember: don’t over mix the batter once you start adding the flour and make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature.
You could swap out walnuts for the pecans and some sort of cognac or Armagnac for the Bourbon. But there is just some wonderful alchemy that happens when pecans and Bourbon are in the same recipe. Bourbon is an American whiskey made from distilled corn mash. And pecans are the only indigenous American nut. So perhaps, that is why something so magical happens when they are paired in things like Bourbon Pecan Pie or this Bourbon Pecan Bread.
While there is alcohol in this recipe, it cooks away in the baking process, leaving only its flavorful depth and essence behind. There is no non-alcoholic substitute that would work here.
Tightly wrapped once it has fully cooled, this Bourbon Pecan Bread will last for several days and can be frozen for later enjoyment. However, when this intoxicating smell wafts out of your oven, you will have to be of a stronger will than I have to not eat it right away.
Yield: 3 mini-loaves or one 9 x 5-ince loaf
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk or plain kefir
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, lightly pan toasted
3 Tablespoons Bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 2+ Tablespoons Demerara or other coarse sugar (optional, but a nice touch)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease (I used cooking spray) a loaf pan. Line the bottom and sides with parchment with a 2-inch overhang. Grease the paper as well. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar un the bottom of the pan, if using. Then carefully turning the pan, coat the bottom and sides with the sugar. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and then add the salt.
Using a food processor or mixer (or by hand), cream the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup until fluffy. This should take about 3 minutes if you are using a machine. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the Bourbon and vanilla.
Starting with the flour, add one third to the butter mixture and process in pulses just until barely combined. Then add half of the buttermilk and lightly pulse or mix it through. Repeat with the next third of the flout and the remaining buttermilk. Add the toasted pecans to the final bit of flour and toss them together. This will help prevent the nuts from all sinking to the bottom. Now add this last amount of flour/pecan mixture and pulse it through the batter or mix with a spatula until just combined. Do not overmix the batter once you have begun adding the flour or the final cake will be gummy and tough.
Pour or spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan. Tap it lightly on the counter to even things out. Lightly sprinkle with the coarse sugar if using and bake for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. For mini-loaves, bake these beauties for about 45 minutes. If your oven bakes as unevenly as mine, turn the bread about half way through. Don’t worry about the top cracking down the middle. That is classic for this kind of bread. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Then carefully lift out the Bourbon Pecan Bread, using the parchment sling. Remove the parchment and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Now enjoy!