Sweet Tart Sentiment

When I was little, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was filled with lots of baking and candy-making. All manner of cookies, cakes, and confections made their way into big resealable containers labeled with their contents. When we'd get visitors, a large plate would be filled to overflowing with goodies and put in the middle of the kitchen table and coffee would be made. I can't number the times that happened. It's the epitome of the holidays for me. Making all manner of delicious and then sharing it with friends and loved ones when they come calling. It's such a simple tradition, but one filled with so much love and care that it still resides at the heart of my own little family's holiday festivities.

Among my favorites was my mother's cranberry bread. Simple, but packed with everything from cranberries to dried fruit and nuts, I could start my day with a couple of slices, grab some more as an afternoon snack, and find yet another piece when dinner was done and I was looking for something sweet for dessert. So this time around, I'm sharing that with you.

As with many baking recipes, don't tweak this one unless you really know what you're doing. And really, I find this particular recipe just so satisfying that I'd highly recommend making it as is. A note: I like to use a vegetable peeler to make long strips of orange zest and then use a sharp knife to cut them into little chunks across the strip. You can also use a grater, but I like being able to find the chunks of zest in the finished bread.

I've been known to double this recipe and make one loaf and a dozen muffins at a time. Oh - and it all freezes well, so feel free to make a lot of it all and save it for later. While it holds special sentimental value to me during the holidays, I assure you that it is equally delicious on a cold January morning or February afternoon coffee break.

Cranberry Nut Bread

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3⁄4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1⁄4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 T. orange zest
  • 3⁄4 c. orange juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. cranberries, chopped (fresh or frozen)
  • 1⁄2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 c. diced dates or raisins

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease/spray bottom only of a 8x4 or 9x5 loaf pan or line a muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add the butter and mix until crumbly.

Add the zest, orange juice, and egg; stir until moistened. Add cranberries, walnuts, and dates or raisins.

Pour the batter (it will be thick) into pan or full the muffin cups to about 2/3 full and bake until a knife comes clean from the center.

For a 8" loaf, about 75 min; for a 9" loaf, about 55-65 min; for 12 standard muffins, about 20-25 min.

Loosen the sides from the pan. Remove & cool completely.

  • Yields: 1 loaf or 12 muffins
  • Preparation Time: 30-80 minutes, depending on baking pan choice