Plum and Cardamom Sweet Bread from In the Sweet Kitchen

Late summer in B.C. is a wonderful time to enjoy locally grown fruit: blueberries, nectarines, peaches, cherries... Apricots are also in season and are not only great to eat out-of-hand, but are great to use in baked goods. For our featured picnic recipe, I chose a sweet loaf from Regan Daley's In the Sweet Kitchen. The recipe calls for Italian blue plums but they're not in season yet so I substituted apricots.

The haunting scent of cardamom, often used in Scandinavian baking, filled the shop. Its sweet, aromatic flavour was a lovely complement to the tangy flavour of the golden apricots.

Plum and Cardamom Sweet Bread

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
3/4 cup full-fat sour cream (14%)
2 cups (about 12 to 16) Italian blue plums [I substituted firm-ripe apricots], stoned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Additional unsalted butter, at room temperature, or vegetable oil cooking spray, for greasing the pan

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. If it is not non-stick, line the bottom and up the two long sides with a piece of parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the edges of the pan by an inch or two. If you haven't any parchment, lightly dust the greased pan with flour and tap out the excess. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla and orange zest.

2. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the flour; sift the remaining flour together with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom. Add this mixture to the creamed mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream in two additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Toss the plums with the reserved 2 tablespoons of flour (this will help keep them from sinking to the bottom) and fold them into the batter, mixing just until the fruit is evenly distributed. As with most cakes and quick breads, you want to avoid overworking this batter, or your loaf will be heavy and too dense. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

3. Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn it out and cool completely before slicing, or wrapping and storing. This is very good spread with sweet or flavoured butter and even a few days old is wonderful toasted. For a special dessert, serve the fresh bread with a little mound of Creme Fraiche or lightly sweetened whipped cream, and a few slices of fresh plum that have been macerated in sugar and brandy or other compatible alcohol for 30 minutes.

Makes one 9x5-inch loaf