In my new book A Desert Feast, I write that one of the reasons Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is our long food history–we are eating some of the things people in our desert valley ate thousands of years ago. That includes mesquite pods. We aren’t chewing on the beans or pounding them in a bed rock mortar, but we are using the ground meal in delicious treats. Mesquite pairs well with apples and the warm spices like cinnamon.
This is an easy recipe that comes together quickly and is a good introduction to the mesquite flavor. It works well for a dessert or a sweet breakfast treat. Today I added dried cranberries to give a little bit of red for Valentine’s Day. It’s worth the time to line your baking pan with foil or parchment paper. The bread is fragile when it comes out of the oven but will firm up as it cools. Without the paper you risk it falling apart when you take it out of the oven.
Mesquite Apple Bread
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom (optional)
2/3 cup white sugar
½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup mesquite meal
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup milk
2 apples, chopped (any kind)
½ cup dried cranberries (optional)
½ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk or cream
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan or line with foil or parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray to get out easily for slicing.
- Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
- Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
- Sprinkle flour, mesquite meal, and baking powder over the butter and sugar mixture and lightly combine with a fork. Then stir into the mixture until almost blended. Add milk and stir until all are combined. Stir in dried cranberries if using.
- Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apple mixture, then half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Wet a tablespoon and use the back of it to push the apple mixture into the batter.
- Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apple mixture, then the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Again, push the apples into the batter.
- Using a table knife, swirl brown sugar mixture through apples.
- Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 50-60 minutes. Make sure you check the center of the loaf as this is a dense cake and the ends are done before the middle.
- To make glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed. Let cool cake for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.
A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has been named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year compilation. Order through your favorite bookstore or here from Native Seeds/SEARCH
“Just received this absolute treasure! The wonderful stories and foodways accounts, not to mention local producers, make this an instant heirloom and everyday delight. Every food lover and food historian must get a copy of this marvel!” — John F Swenson