I’m one of those people who attempt to make grocery lists but then everything flies out the window when I’m at actually at the store. Sadly, there have been times when I get everything but the item that I really need because I get distracted by some item that’s on special or “available for limited time only.” That however, turned out to be a good thing when I came across fresh cranberries on sale.
Fresh cranberries. Dried cranberries? Sure, in yogurt with granola or trail mix as a snack. Cranberry sauce? Yup, I have had that too, both as a sauce sauce and a jellied sauce, but I’ve never seen fresh cranberries before. The next thing I knew, a bag of them had somehow made its way into my shopping cart.
It wasn’t until after I got back home that I realized I had no idea what to do with those cranberries. I wasn’t having turkey (nope, not even Tofurkey for fellow vegetarians/vegans) nor was I – surprisingly! – hyped to create an apple cranberry crisp. Maybe it was the possible danger of eating it ALL in a single sitting, at home, by myself…
I tried to describe to my parents how big the fresh cranberries are. Well, here they are in comparison to a green seedless grape:
And for fellow fresh cranberry newbies, here’s what the inside of a fresh cranberry looks like. I had no idea they looked like this! White and “crispy” and with seeds! Ah, the perils of only eating dried cranberries. Well at least now I know:
Anyway, I found a recipe for a whole wheat cranberry-orange loaf and it was a hit at work. Some of my labmates actually complained to me because they didn’t get a chance to have some before it disappeared. Bread tends to disappear in my lab well before the morning is over, and studded with fresh cranberries and toasted pecans, this loaf was no exception.
Whole Wheat Cranberry-Orange Loaf
Minimally adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe found here.
– 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
– 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup whole wheat flour*
– 1/3 cup water, room temperature
– 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
– 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
– 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
– 1/4 cup honey
– 1/3 cup milk, lukewarm
– 1/4 cup orange juice
– 1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
– 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, very coarsely chopped; OR 1/2 cup sweetened, dried cranberries**
*The original recipe calls for white whole wheat flour, but I used traditional whole wheat flour because that’s what I had on hand.
**The original recipe says to use fresh or frozen cranberries if you enjoy their very assertive tart flavor; use sweetened dried cranberries for a milder effect. The fresh cranberries did lend a tartness to the bread, but I felt it was nicely balanced by the subtle sweetness of the honey and whole wheat, and buttery toasted pecans.
Sponge: In a large mixing bowl, combine the sponge ingredients, mixing till smooth. Cover the bowl and allow the sponge to rest for 2 to 10 hours, at your convenience. It should look slightly puffy when you are ready to mix your dough.
Add all of the ingredients, except the pecans and cranberries, to the puffy sponge. Mix until a rough dough forms, then knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is somewhat smooth; since this dough is made almost entirely from whole wheat, it won’t be nearly as supple and silky as a white-flour dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour. It’ll become somewhat puffy, but won’t double in bulk.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and knead in the pecans and cranberries. There’s a lot of fruit and nuts here, so don’t be discouraged when it appears it doesn’t all want to go into the dough; just keep pushing it in and kneading, and eventually it’ll all be incorporated. [Note: this took quite a while even though I halved the amount of pecans and cranberries.] Shape the dough into a flattened 6-inch round [I shaped it into a boule], place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and allow it to rise for 2 hours, or until it’s noticeably expanded, though not doubled in bulk.
Bake the bread on the middle rack of a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil midway through the baking time if it appears to be browning too quickly [I baked it in my Pyrex bowl that had been preheated in the oven for extra oven spring]. The interior temperature will be between 185°F and 200°F when the bread is done. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack.
Here’s a blurry photo of a sloppy slice. Note the finely textured and soft crumb:
By the way, I went to the store again today and managed to buy something on my grocery list this time: another bag of fresh cranberries. Susan’s cranberry bread looks too delicious not to try and make.
Happy [American] Thanksgiving!
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