Cranberry Walnut Bread

As promised, here's the recipe for the cranberry walnut bread I made for my recent plane flight.


Cranberry Walnut Bread


Dough Starter (Sponge): Minimum 1 1/2 hour, Maximum 24 hours

Minimum Rising Time: About 3 1/4 hours

Baking Time: 50 to 60  minutes

Oven Temperature: 375°F/190˚C

Makes: 2 pounds, 3.3 ounce / 1000 gram  loaf

The optional stiff sourdough starter adds flavor but what is most important, it extends shelf-life, keeping the bread soft and moist.

Equipment: A 10 inch or longer  baking sheet, preferably insulated, or a double layer of 2 baking sheets, top 1 lined with parchment, or sprinkled with  flour or corn meal.

Early in the morning or the night before prepare the cranberries, walnuts, and start the dough starter (sponge)


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1) Soak the cranberries

In a small bowl, place the cranberries and water. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dried fruit soak until it is softened and plump, stirring once, for 30 minutes. Drain the cranberries, reserving the liquid in a 1 cup liquid measure. (You should have 3 fluid ounces.)  Add enough water to come to the 1 cup level and set it aside covered. If planning to mix the dough the next day, cover the cranberries and water with plastic wrap and refrigerate them overnight.

Flour Mixture

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2) Prepare the walnuts and flour mixture

In a preheated 325ºF. oven, toast the walnuts very lightly for 7 minutes. to bring out their flavor and loosen the skins but do not brown them. Transfer them to a clean towel and while still hot, rub them to remove as much of the bitter skin as possible. Coarsely break 1  1/2 cups of the walnuts and set them aside. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of walnut halves in a food processor along with the whole wheat flour and process for about a minute or until ground fine. Pulse in the bread flour and yeast. Set it aside.

Dough Starter (Sponge)

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3) Make the dough starter (sponge)

In a medium bowl whisk together the bread flour, yeast, and malt, or sugar. In a mixer bowl, place the cranberry water and tear in the starter. Allow it to sit for about 30 minutes or until softened. Add the flour mixture and whisk until very smooth to incorporate air, about 2 minutes. The dough will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides. (If using a bread machine, you can mix in the container with the dough blade(s), but you’ll need to scrape the corners several times.) Lightly spoon the ground nut/flour mixture on top of the sponge. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 hour or up to 4 hours at room temperature. The batter beneath the flour will be very bubbly and spongy in texture. Some of it will break through the flour mixture.


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4) Mix the dough

Mixer Method

Add the oil and walnuts, and with the dough hook, mix on low (#2 Kitchen Aid) about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened, to form a soft rough dough. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and  allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle on salt and knead the dough on medium speed (#4 Kitchen Aid) for 7 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. After the first 3 minutes, if the dough still appears sticky and does not begin to pull away from the bowl, add a little of the flour a tablespoon at a time. Sprinkle the counter lightly with a little more of this flour. Place the dough on top and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes to relax the gluten.

Bread Machine Method

Add the oil and broken walnuts and mix 3 minutes. Allow the dough to rest 20 minutes. Then knead 7 minutes. (Add the salt after the first minute or two after mixing. Add cranberries by hand after resting 20 minutes because they are soaked so would smooch in the machine.

Both Methods

Roll the dough into a rectangle (about 14 inches by 10 inches). Sprinkle the cranberries evenly over the dough and starting from the short end, roll up the dough as you would a jelly roll. (Do not use the machine to mix in the cranberries will break down and result in a dark compact crumb.)

Form the dough into a ball and knead it lightly. After the cranberries are added the dough becomes a little tacky (sticky) and will need a little more of the extra flour. (The dough should weigh about 2 pounds, 6 ounces / 1075 grams.)

5) Let the dough rise

Place the dough into a 2 quart dough rising container or bowl, greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape mark on the side of the container approximately where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75°F to 80°F) until doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours (a little over 2 quarts).

Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough to a floured counter and press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Give it 1 business letter turn (I), round the edges and set it back in the container. Again, oil the surface, cover, mark where double the height will now be and refrigerate over night or allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 to 1/2 hours. (It will fill it fuller than before because it is puffier with air). Note: If refrigerating overnight, deflate it once or twice to prevent over-proofing.

6) Shape the dough and let it rise

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Press down on it or roll it to form a rectangle and shape it into a 8 to 12 inch long torpedo shaped loaf.  If 8 inches long it will be about 4 inches wide by 3 inches high. If 12  inches long it will be about 3  1/2 inches wide by 2  1/2 inches high. Set the dough on a baking sheet lined with non-stick liner or parchment. Cover it with a large container oroiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until almost doubled and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in, 45 minutes to 1 hour (12 by 4  1/2 by 2  3/4 inches high or 9 by 6 by 3 1/2 inches high).

7) Preheat the oven

30 minutes before baking preheat the oven to 400°F/200˚C Have the oven shelf at the next to lowest level and set a cast iron pan or sheet pan on the floor of the oven before preheating.

8) Slash and bake the bread

Allow it to sit uncovered for 5 minutes to dry slightly.  With a sharp knife or straight edged razor blade, make 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep horizontal slashes in the top of the dough about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Mist the dough with water and quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the oven rack. Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door and bake 5 minutes. Lower the heat to 375°F. and continue baking  45 to 55 minutes or until the crust is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200°F.) Tent loosely with foil after the first 20 minutes of baking. Halfway through baking, turn the pan halfway around for even baking.

9) Cool the bread

Remove the bread from the oven, lift it from the pan, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side up (at least 2 hours).

Pointers for Success

Don’t set the pan on a preheated baking stone as this bread tends to brown faster and could over-brown.

Soaking the cranberries not only softens them but also produces a naturally sweetened liquid that permeates the bread and turns the crust a magnificent golden brown.

The walnuts are toasted very lightly to keep them from turning blue in the crumb. As some of the nuts work their way to the top of the crust and continue to brown, it is best to toast them only lightly.

This bread takes longer to rise because of the extra weight of the whole wheat flour, cranberries and nuts. Extra risings makes the grain more even and lighter.

A softer dough results in a lighter texture ideal for this bread. Don’t work in too much flour.

If using malt syrup instead of malt powder, it will produce a browner crumb instead of the rosy hue. As the long baking required for this large loaf and the cranberry soaking water containing sugar conspire to making a very brown crust, this bread should not be baked on a baking stone.

The Rose Ratio

flour: 100%

     bread: 86.2%

     whole wheat: 13.8%

water: 58.9%

yeast: 1%

salt: 2%

oil: 3.4%