Search This Blog

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cranberry and Walnut Celebration Bread - fit for any festive occasions

I have a 1.2-kg bag of Craisins (dried cranberries) from CostCo that I am trying to use it up. Apart from enjoying them as a snack (they are tart, sweet and juicy and just nice as is), I also wanted to make bread from them.

I made cranberry and walnut sourdough some weeks ago, which I enjoyed the flavour and texture. This time, I wanted to make enriched bread with cranberry and, again, walnut, one of the classic pairing.

The cranberry and walnut celebration bread from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread caught my attention with its attractive double braided shape. Though, there wasn’t anything to celebrate, well, it’s not Christmas, it’s Easter, it’s none of those festive seasons, I decided to make the bread anyway. Any day can be a special day. Any day can be celebrated, nonetheless.

I changed the recipe a little by including sourdough starter (to boost the flavour and keeping quality) and reduced the amount of commercial yeast. If you’d like to make the bread purely with commercial yeast, you can do that by increasing the amount of ingredients as per (bracketed) notes.

The recipe contains substantial amount of cranberry and walnuts, it was about 90% altogether (in term of Baker’s Percentage, where all ingredients measured against total flour in the recipe). The good thing was that the bread was full of flavours and texture from massive amount of cranberries and walnuts. The not-so-good thing was that these made the bread rather heavy. If I am going to make this bread again, I would reduce the amount of cranberry and walnut by 15%. I would also increase the amount of butter by 15% as I find the bread was a little lacking of richness (I don’t know if it is because of Winter. I find myself craving for rich, buttery and sweet food. The only breads that can satisfy my taste buds at the moment are brioche and croisssants).

This bread was brown really quickly. In fact, it was brown too quickly. The crust started to get dark brown half-way through the bake. This could have been the result of double egg wash, and massive amount of sweet cranberries in the dough (sugar contributes to brown crust).  The crust was way darker than I wish.

I also wasn’t pleased with my braiding. Really, it was a shame because Asian girl braid their hair so regularly. I should know this by heart. Somehow, I was sort of blank when I braided the bread. I wasn’t sure which stand would go over which. I think the braiding turned out rather funny and not-so-well-shaped.

All in all, it was a nice bread but it wasn’t something I would come back and make anytime soon. It is good but not great.

Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread
adapted from Peter Rienhart’s The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread

make 1 large braided loaf


Overall Formula
Baker’s Percentage
Bread flour
383 g
43 g
5 g
Instant yeast
7 g
Orange extract
21 g
100 g
114 g
30 %
28 g
7.4 %
85 g
22 %
Dried cranberries
255 g
67 %
85 g
22 %
1.13 kg

Final Dough Ingredients
White starter  120 g (100% hydration, ideally fed three times before the mixing)
Bread flour  323 g (if not using SD starter, add 60 g more flour)
Sugar  43 g
Salt  5 g
Instant yeast  7 g, 2 ¼ teaspoon (if not using SD starter, increase yeast to 11 g, 3 ½ tsp)
Orange extract  21 g, 1 ½ tablespoons
Eggs, slightly beaten  2 eggs
Full cream milk  114 g
Butter, melted  28 g
Water  25 g (if not using SD starter, add 60 g more water)
Dried sweetened cranberries  255 g
Walnuts, coarse chopped  85 g
Egg wash (one egg mixed with one tablespoon of milk)


Stir together flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl (or in a bowl of an electric mixer). Dissolve starter with water and milk until well-combined. Add orange extract, eggs, and butter. Stir the mixture with dry ingredients using a large metal spoon or on low-speed in the mixer, until the dough ball is formed.

Knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and only slightly tacky, but not sticky. It should have a soft, pliable quality, not stiff and resistant. If it too stiff, add a small amount of water until it softens; if the dough seems too sticky, sprinkle in small amounts of flour as needed. Add the dried cranberries and knead for another 2 minutes,  or until they are evenly distributed. Then gently knead the walnut pieces until they are evenly distributed. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Transfer the dough to the counter and divide t into 6 pieces, 3 pieces of 270 g each and 3 pieces of 105 g each. Roll out the larger pieces into strands about 22-cm long, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Roll the smaller pieces into strand about 17-cm long and similarly tapered. Braid the large strands using the 3-braid technique and then braid the small strands in the same pattern. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Place a large braid on the pan. Then center the smaller braid on top in double-decker fashion. Brush the entire assembly with half of the egg wash and refrigerate the remaining egg wash to be used later.

Proof uncovered at room temperature for about 90 minutes, or until the dough nearly doubles in size. Brush the loaf a second time with the remaining egg wash.

Preheat oven to 165C with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degree for even baking and then continue baking for another 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaf is a deep golden brown, feels very firm and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. 

Remove the bread from the pan and transfer it to a cooling rack. Allow the bread to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

Submitting this post to YeastSpotting.


  1. hey Sue..
    I think your braiding is quite good, imo pretty actually.
    I may make this, but should definately substitute walnuts with pistachios or something..I really dislike the bitter flavor of walnuts! :D
    I know I don't comment as doesn't mean I don't come to read it every day, it's just I decided to be a bit bitchy :D and 'don't comment as often' till you comment on my blog too.. :/ 'cause I think I deserve it, as I am one of your few-sorry, and I don't have any *blush*- readers.
    just know..I need appreciation too, this shouldn't be one sided..

  2. Thanks ceren. It's nice to hear, though I wasn't happy with the braiding.

    I stopped over your blog sometimes ago, and wanted to comment, the one with your big feast. The blog looked like it got Trojan. It opened ten of sites uncontrollably.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Cheers, sue

  3. omg! did not know about that..that's terrible
    oh, and sorry