It's a ritual of sorts for me, gathering favorite ingredients to bake a batch of quick breads for Thanksgiving and Christmas. When it comes to baking, I am a traditionalist. I'm drawn to the kind of old-fashioned recipes that never go out of style: nothing too weird or with too many ingredients. I pick up recipes from friends and from old cookbooks, and once I've found the perfect one--with a classic flavor, a proper texture and an ideal level of sweetness--I use it for decades. In a way, these recipes become a part of my life.
Every time I bake quick loaves, I remember the first nut bread I ever tasted. A gift from a neighbor, wrapped in colored cellophane and tied with a piece of ribbon, the little rectangular loaf delighted me as I balanced it in my palm; I wanted to make one myself. Soon a soft-crumbed, high-domed cake muffin at a Berkeley breakfast haunt became the muffin by which I measured my own.
All of the simple-to-assemble recipes that follow are favorites. Some, like the Banana Nut Bread, have been with me since I started baking. Others are variations I've devised to showcase the nuts, dried fruits and aromatic spices that sing of this season.
BETH HENSPERGER is a newspaper columnist and the author of seven cookbooks, the latest of which, The Bread Bible (Chronicle), is due out this month.