Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gorgonzola Cranberry Walnut Bread

My father doesn't have much of a sweet tooth--or so he says, since I distinctly recall him eating butter pecan ice cream and orange sherbert when I lived with him as a child--but regardless, I decided to make him a cheese bread for Christmas instead of cookies. I like to give people things they want to get.

It's often said that "it is the thought that counts" with gifts but we all know that is a lie. The Cindy Dreamhouse I got when I was five or six or so--which was taller than I was and had a doll elevator--I remember as the 'gift to end all gifts,' sod all of the rhetoric of "as long as we are together, it doesn't matter." Puppies, ponies, bikes, computers are all lovely thoughts, but much nicer in the flesh, unless you are given your older sister's outgrown pink Barbie bike and you are a ten-year-old boy.

But, in a way, I suppose the thought does count in the sense that the dollhouse said: "this is what you want, and we love you enough to get it for you, even though it said some assembly was required."  A hand-me-down inappropriate bike says: "we think so little of you, we didn't even bother to buy your sister a gender-neutral orange bike so you wouldn't be made a fool of on the playground."

But no gift is always better than a bad gift. Carefully listen when someone says "no, you shouldn't have."  They may mean: "NO!  you shouldn't have."  Or, they may mean: "no, you SHOULDN'T HAVE." As in, I am desperately trying to think of how to get rid of this even as I fold it back in its tissue wrapping.

Bad gifts that I can recall include a fluffy, shedding fake angora sweater that looked like a pseudo- Indian blanket; a doll with green yarn hair; a strange, fake bejeweled bookmark in the shape of a strawberry (think Strawberry Shortcake meets trophy wife); one of those sweaters with knitted roses hanging off of it like a dying rose bush; and a matching pencil, address book and notebook set from a dollar store with a seascape on it that looked so sad and washed out I would have cried if I had gotten it when I was ten (but was thirty when I received it instead). 

My mother worked as an administrative assistant, though, and got some of the worst gifts I have ever seen from her co-workers--strange, cheap lotions that looked like they would rub your skin off; a pink clock in the shape of a grotesque Victorian doll; even Beanie Babies (to be fair, the woman was a collector and my mother's friend, but still...). And my mother got some lotion from a family member she tried to return to the cosmetic counter, only to discover it was the nonreturnable 'gift' customers received with every purchase.

I have to say, though, that the best 'bad gift' I heard about  recently was something received by a very hippie couple with whom I take yoga.  Last year, they got matching jogging suits.  Like, sweatpants and sweatshirts--the kind you wear when you are a child.  The jogging suits were both the same color and style: 'his and hers.'  "I know you guys are into fitness," the giver said.

"No, you SHOULDN'T HAVE," they responded and promptly donated it to the Goodwill.  "I hope that the charity split up the set," said the wife,  "because I would hate to do that to someone."

I hope my father enjoyed this cheese bread.  It's not sweet, but the tartness of the dried cranberries and the nuttiness of the walnuts are a nice compliment to the strong-flavored cheese. I based it off a favorite salad combination of mine--Gorgonzola on spinach, tossed with cranberries and walnuts.

Gorgonzola Cranberry Walnut Bread

 --yields 12 slices--


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) melted butter, plus more for buttering the pan

4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup cranberries
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, plus more for 'flouring' the pan


1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease a 9x5 loaf pan with butter and 'flour' it with the spare Parmesan cheese.  Put one or two full tablespoons of Parmesan cheese at the bottom of the pan.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and chili powder in a bowl.

3. Combine the eggs, milk, and melted butter in another bowl.

4. Combine wet and dry mixture. Gently fold in the cheese, cranberries, and walnuts.

5. Pour in the prepared loaf pan, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick can be extracted clean. Be careful not to insert the toothpick into a clump of 'cheese.'

7. Cool and remove from pan.


  1. I have been trying for YEARS to get my siblings to agree not to exchange presents and it's not because I don't like giving to them, it's because everything they give me is ... not good. I don't want to be ungracious because a gift is a gift, but some of their gifts are so bad they actually hurt my feelings. As an example of one of things I was given this year: purple, fur-lined fleece jacket. In case I want to become an outdoorsy pimp, I suppose.

  2. I'm a bad gift receiver - can't muster much enthusiasm at the unwrapping, but later learn to appreciate if not love the present - but the worst gift I can think of is the Bic pen to which the middle-aged gifting co-worker had attached a plastic flower, using black plastic tape. And yet I still have that pen and think fondly of the gifter whenever I see it.

  3. @flurrious--yes, as an adult, it is particularly dreadful to get a bad gift and not be able to be honest about how you feel (at least a child can get away with pouting). I like purple but feel tawdry when I wear too much of it. That jacket sounds so awful, I'm not sure you could even give it to the Goodwill, unless there is one nearby that caters to pimps hard on their luck.

    @bittenbyknittin--as a kid I was great at receiving gifts, but I've gotten more awkward in my old age. I got a pen as a gift too and had the initial "what were they thinking" response, although a pen is at least useful, unlike a bad scarf.

  4. My mother has given me some interesting gifts in her day. ANd I always love the people who give you candles. LIke, really? You think I can't afford my electric bill?

    Anyways, I am always a fan of food gifts and this bread sounds absolutely delicious! I hope your father loved it!

  5. @Joanne--don't even get me started on those weird, expensive scented candles. I was without power for a week and didn't use a single candle! Flashlights people, flashlights!

  6. This is a great post - I love the matching sweats story - yikes! This is an interesting bread, too - I love the addition of gorgonzola here - one of my most favorite cheeses!

  7. @Amy--unfortunately, it does have a green shade that isn't great for photographing, but it is delicious!