Friday, November 18, 2011

Cranberry Bread: A Family Tradition

This time of season evokes thoughts of family traditions and memories of holiday celebrations. Thanksgiving, in particular, sends me flying back to my childhood table. When I moved away from home and began cooking in my own kitchen, I took many of my mom’s recipes with me. They were the building blocks in the creation of my own repertoire of recipes and I am still cooking many of them years later.

Every year, I pull out the five pages of handwritten Thanksgiving recipes from my mom. In these pages she shares her menu for dishes such as scalloped corn supreme, cranberry salad, autumn stuffing, cranberry velvet pie and her delectable sour cream coffee cake (wonderful for breakfast on Thanksgiving Day). She includes notes and tips from her experience in preparing this holiday feast - so helpful for me as a novice cook, and great reminders now! She ends the pages of notes by writing, “Good luck – a lot of fun work and worth it!” I have found this to be very true.

Looking over these splattered, rumpled pages, I lingered on the recipe for cranberry bread. It’s a recipe my younger brother, Mike, brought home from his preschool (as noted by my mom) and that we enjoyed on our Thanksgiving table every year after that. It’s full of fresh cranberries and toasted walnuts, with a subtle citrus flavor. My mom always baked the bread in mini-loaf pans and placed one at each person’s setting on the table. I loved having my own individual loaf and carefully cutting little slices to devour!

As I got older, I began making this cranberry bread myself and it always tastes of Thanksgiving and family to me. Thanks, Mom.

Cranberry Bread
Makes 1 9x5 inch loaf or 4 mini-loaves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, roughly chopped or pulsed a few times in a food processor
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x5 loaf pan or 4 mini-loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the egg and orange juice and mix until blended. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and beat into the butter mixture. Gently fold in the cranberries and walnuts until just mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake until golden and a tester has just a few moist crumbs on it (about 25 minutes for mini-loaves, 45 minutes for a big loaf). Let cool before removing from pan(s).


  1. That looks like Thanksgiving in loaf form! How yummy! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love cranberry and nut combo! Very cute baking mini much good baking to do but so little time. Great photos.

  3. I would love to try this recipe and share the result at girlfriend baking party. The photos look so inviting..

  4. @Lisa (this litttle piggy)
    Thank you, Lisa! I know, the time to bake is slipping by quickly - I have quite a list to narrow down. Good luck with yours and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. @Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
    Thank you, Pranee! A baking party with girlfriends sounds so fun! I hope you enjoy the cranberry bread. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Great to see the Cranberry Bread recipe! The recipe was actually from my first grade class with Mrs. Burr at Estabrook School. I remember the day we made these in class. That same day we also learned how to make butter and we each churned our own butter in a little jar. Every time we've had this I think about that churned butter in class. I'm still amazed I made my own butter that day at the ripe old age of 6. I think Mom made it the first time I brought the recipe home. Not so much after that though.

  7. These look (and sound) delicious. Reminds me of Cranberry Thanksgiving!

  8. @Lauren
    Thank you, Lauren! And how have I missed out Cranberry Thanksgiving?? Did you ever make the secret recipe? Thank you for mentioning it. :)

  9. I love that your Mom gave you each your own miniature loaf. What a sweet touch and a beautiful tradition. I think it can also be said that Mike obviously had the coolest teacher ever!

  10. @Eileen
    Hi Eileen! Everything in miniature is so much more special, isn't it? I have really tiny loaf pans that are fun to use, too.

  11. I've been meaning to comment on this wonderful recipe. My husband and I both love cranberries - he once took a job when he was young, working in the bogs harvesting the little guys. We can't do the walnuts, though, or any other nut - I'm assuming this is great just eliminating them?

    Thank you, Susan! Yes, feel free to eliminate the walnuts - I've made the bread that way, too, and it's still good. How cool that your husband worked in the cranberry bogs! We have quite a few here in Washington and in Massachusetts (where I grew up).

  13. Oh I love these...thinking as we don't do Thanksgiving down this way they would be perfect for Christmas morning.

    1. That's a great idea, Mairi - these little loaves would be very festive for Christmas with their red pops of color.

  14. Hannah, this looks wonderful! Do you think lemon juice could be substituted for the orange juice, or would the lemony flavor be too strong?
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Joy! I think lemon juice would be lovely and add a nice citrus flavor. In fact, I'm going to try it the next time I bake a batch (I still have a stash of frozen cranberries with no plan). I appreciate the suggestion!

    2. I made it today with the lemon juice and it is fantastic! We have already devoured 1/4 of the entire loaf! :) Thank you for another delightful recipe - and for sharing a sweet treat that I'm sure will become tradition in our family (as my husband is still talking about how good it is!)!

    3. Joy, I'm delighted you and your family are enjoying the cranberry bread! And I'm happy to know that lemon juice works well. It's very thoughtful of you to let me know - thank you!


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