Bread Bliss

Thanksgiving this year was an event filled with more food than a table could hold (two tables, actually), the hustle and bustle of people arriving and departing with packages in tow, and the warmth that comes when friends and loved ones gather. In essence, it was a typical Thanksgiving.

And yet, it was not. Instead of making the trek to one of the grandparents' homes, we opted to stay in town and join a dear friend and many more dear friends and friends-to-be at the Orphan Thanksgiving. Every year for more than 20 years now, her house becomes home to an event that calls together everyone seeking a place to share a fine potluck Thanksgiving, complete with a wide variety of traditional and nontraditional dishes, a selection of wine and spirits that is impressive, and all the smiles, warmth, game-playing, and well-wishing folks have come to expect from such an event.

To this festive event, we brought a carrot-raisin salad, maple-cayenne roasted sweet potatoes, bacon-garlic cheese spread with assorted crackers, and cinnamon-cranberry bread with honey butter. All were well-received and enjoyed that evening, but there were leftovers … as is the holiday tradition. So I'm here to tell the story of one of those items, including the original recipe and the fun way we used the leftovers the morning after our fine feast.

We made the bread using our handy bread machine, but I understand that not everyone has one of these nifty devices. Therefore, I'm sharing a recipe for it that includes both bread machine instructions and additional instructions for those using a stand mixer or the old-fashioned method of good 'ol elbow grease!

Cinnamon-Cranberry Bread

  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 2 T. butter, softened
  • 4 c. all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp. yeast
  • 3/4 c. dried cranberries
Bread Machine Instructions:

Measure and add the liquid ingredients to the bread pan of your machine. Measure and add the dry ingredients (except the yeast and dried cranberries) to the bread pan of your machine. Using your finger, form a hole in the flour and pour the yeast into it. The yeast must not come into contact with the liquid ingredients until the mixing cycle.

Snap the bread pan of your machine into the breadmaker and close the lid. Choose the sweet setting, your desired crust color, and start the bread machine.

When the machine beeps during the kneading cycle, raise the lid and add the dried cranberries, a few at a time, until they are all incorporated into the dough. A couple of hours later, remove the warm loaf of bread to a rack to cool. Slice and enjoy.

Stand Mixer or Hand-Kneading Instructions:

Measure and add the flour, salt, and ground cinnamon to a large bowl (large enough to hold 3x the ingredients you start with to accommodate growth). Add the water, softened butter, and sugar to the top of the dry ingredients. Add the yeast and slowly mix into the flour to form a dough.

Knead the dough to thoroughly combine, using a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment (or your hands). Add 1~2 tablespoons of oil to coat the dough and cover with a damp warm towel that's covered with a dry towel. Let the dough rest to rise. When it has doubled in size, punch down the dough. Knead the dough again and allow it to recover as before.

Shape into a loaf and place in a well-oiled bread pan and bake at 350º F for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the loaf of bread is browned to your liking.

  • Yields: 1 2-pound loaf of bread
  • Preparation Time: About 2 hours

I ended up bringing back some slices of the bread, which I had cut into quarters to allow everyone to opt for just a small piece alongside their Thanksgiving feast. While the smaller pieces were perfect for that use, they now no longer seemed ideal for French toast, which had been my first plan for leftovers. Not deterred, I sprayed my red round casserole dish with cooking spray and started arranging the pieces of bread in concentric circles. The end result looked very much like a flower blossom and I was rather pleased with it. I mixed up a citrusy royale and sprinkled some cinnamon sugar over the top of the dish and, after a proper baking, we had a delightful breakfast bread pudding. There's something about being able to use holiday leftovers for yet another festive meal that has me in the holiday spirit. Just imagine how fun it's going to get after I put together my first turkey of the season this weekend!

Cinnamon-Cranberry Bread Pudding

  • 8 slices of cinnamon-cranberry bread, cut into quarters
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c. orange juice
  • 2/3 c. heavy cream
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400º F.

In a round casserole dish sprayed with nonstick spray, arrange the pieces of bread around the edges of the dish in layers, forming a flower pattern. Set aside.

Combine the eggs, orange juice, and heavy cream in a small bowl. Whisk thoroughly to form a custard-like mixture. Pour evenly over the bread in the round casserole dish. Combine the sugar and ground cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top of the bread.

Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top of the bread is golden and the egg-coated bread has set. Serve warm with maple syrup.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes