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Cranberry Walnut Bread is a fluffy, plump, slightly sweet bread that’s perfect for any special occasion.

Cranberry Nut Bread is the ultimate simple, special occasion treat and holiday bread that’s soft, chewy, and easy to love. Dried cranberries aka craisins and a little sugar add a touch of sweetness and walnuts give it the perfect crunch. Serve cranberry bread sliced, toasted, and topped with a soft, creamy cheese (I used a triple cream brie in the photos). It’s heavenly with butter too!

Also, if you’re new to making yeast bread, never fear. This cranberry bread recipe is written for bread beginners. It’s super flexible too, meaning that you can use active dry yeast or instant yeast, knead by hand or use a stand mixer, and proof the dough via Instant Pot or room temperature.

sliced cranberry walnut bread loaf on cutting board with brie cheese wedge next to Christmas decorations

HOW TO MAKE CRANBERRY WALNUT BREAD

Visit recipe card below ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️️ for printable amounts and instructions

  1. combine warm water and yeast
  2. add sugar, salt, and oil and pour into flour
  3. stir everything until it forms a shaggy dough
  4. add dried cranberries (craisins) and walnuts
  5. knead (or mix via stand mixer) about 5 minutes
  6. 1st proofing (rise) via Instant Pot or room temperature
  7. punch down to remove air bubbles
  8. 2nd proofing
  9. punch down, shape into loaves, and score the loaf
  10. 3rd proofing
  11. bake
  12. allow to cool and enjoy!

KNEADING DOUGH: STAND MIXER OR HAND-KNEAD

1) STAND MIXER OPTION

Insert dough hook and mix dough ingredients on low speed until cohesive. Continue kneading until dough becomes elastic and stretchy (about 3-5 min). During this process, sprinkle flour over the dough in tiny amounts to prevent it sticking to bowl or dough hook. You may need to stop the mixer occasionally to scrape dough from the bowl sides.

2) HAND KNEADING OPTION

Stir dough ingredients together in a mixing bowl until shaggy, but somewhat cohesive. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and hand-knead until dough becomes elastic and stretchy (5-8 minutes). During this process, sprinkle flour over dough in tiny amounts as needed to prevent dough sticking to hands or surface. Try to think of hand-kneading as “pushing” the dough into itself until it eventually forms a well-developed elastic structure.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN DOUGH IS DONE KNEADING

Yeast dough is done kneading when it passes any of these tests

  1. pull test – dough doesn’t tear when you pinch or tug a piece away from itself
  2. windowpane test – dough doesn’t tear when you stretch a small portion thinly enough to see light coming through
  3. poke test – dough springs back when you make an indentation with your finger

CAN YOU KNEAD BREAD TOO MUCH?

Yes, it is possible to over-knead dough. When this happens, the dough will become more stiff to knead and may begin to tear. If this happens, cover the dough and let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes, then test the dough to see if it needs more kneading (see previous paragraph).

HOW TO PROOF DOUGH: INSTANT POT OR ROOM TEMP

  • Option #1: Room temperature proofing – Place dough face down in a large, oiled, mixing bowl, flip to coat with oil, and rest seam-side down. Cover with a kitchen towel or loose fitting plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature (75°-100°F) until dough doubles in size (45-90 min).
  • Option #2: Instant Pot Proofing – Coat the Instant Pot stainless insert with OLIVE OIL. Place dough ball face down in the pot, flip to coat with oil, and rest seam-side down. Cover pot with a lid or plate. Select “yogurt” button and toggle the “adjust” button to “normal” indicator and set timer for 1 hour. Allow dough to rise until it doubles in size (30-60 minutes). Note: Instant Pot must have the YOGURT setting to proof bread dough.

SHAPING THE DOUGH: LOAF OR FREE FORM

You can shape yeast dough however you like! After the second proofing, you’ll shape the dough into a loaf pan and bake, or create a free form (like the rounds you see in this recipe) and bake on a parchment-covered baking sheet. You can also shape into baguettes and bake on a baguette pan or baking sheet. Always leave leave enough space around free forms to double in size before baking.

RECOMMENDED TOOLS

  • heat safe measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • instant-read thermometer (to test water for yeast activation)
  • 4 quart mixing bowl or stand mixer (to mix bread dough)
  • stirring utensil (preferably wood)
  • bowl scraper (helps remove dough from the bowl…like a spatula)
  • Instant Pot with 9″ lid (optional too for proofing)
  • bread lame or razor blade (to score the dough)
  • baking sheet, loaf pan, or baguette pan
  • clean kitchen towel or plastic (to cover loaves during proof)
  • oven mitts

HOW TO SERVE CRANBERRY WALNUT BREAD

  • sliced and toasted with a schmear of your favorite soft cheese
  • as a turkey sandwich using holiday leftover roast turkey breast
  • turn it into crostini for appetizers and bruschetta
  • turn it into croutons for salads or a fun snack

RECIPE

rep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Proofing Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Yield: 2 1 lb. loaves

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups Warm Water
  • 1 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast or 1 packet Rapid Rise Instant Yeast
  • 3 1/3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Dried Cranberries (Craisins) coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Walnuts coarsely chopped

TOOLS NEEDED

  • measuring spoons
  • instant read thermometer (optional)
  • 4 quart mixing bowl or 5 quart stand mixer
  • stirring utensil
  • Instant Pot (not required, but can be used to proof dough)
  • bread lame (or straight razor blade)
  • baking sheet, loaf pan, or baguette pan
  • clean kitchen towel or plastic (to cover loaves for final proof)
  • oven mitts

RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS

  • If HAND-KNEADING, use 4-quart mixing bowl. If using STAND MIXER, secure your mixer bowl with the dough hook attachment.

Step 1: Combine WARM WATER and YEAST (Active Dry or Instant)

  • ACTIVE DRY YEAST (activation required):

    Combine WARM WATER (100°-110°F) and ACTIVE DRY YEAST in your mixing bowl. Allow to rest until yeast appears foamy on the surface (about 5 min). Go to step 2.

    RAPID RISE INSTANT YEAST PACKET (no activation required):

    Combine WARM WATER (120°F-130°F) and INSTANT YEAST in your mixing bowl. No activation needed. Go to step 2.

Step 2: Add ingredients

  • Stir SUGAR, SALT, and OLIVE OIL into the liquid.
  • Add 3 cups FLOUR (the other 1/3 cup may or may not be needed during mixing).

Step 3: Mix ingredients (by hand or stand mixer)

  • Stir ingredients together (or mix on low speed) until shaggy dough forms.
  • Add DRIED CRANBERRIES (CRAISINS) and WALNUTS. Continue mixing a minute or two to incorporate ingredients and form a slightly more cohesive dough. Go to step 4.

Step 4: Continue kneading to form elastic structure

  • Hand-knead: Transfer shaggy dough to a lightly floured surface and hand-knead until an elastic, stretchy dough forms (5-8 minutes), sprinkling flour on dough surface in tiny amounts to prevent dough sticking to hands or surface.

    Stand mixer: Continue mixing on low speed to knead dough until an elastic, stretchy dough forms (3-5 min), sprinkling flour into the bowl in tiny amounts to prevent dough sticking to bowl or dough hook. You may need to stop the mixer occasionally to scrape dough from the bowl sides.

    *See recipe footnote on “How to know when dough is done kneading”

Step 5: Shape dough for proofing

  • Shape dough into a tight ball by tucking the sides underneath the ball and form a seam on the bottom.

Step 6: First proofing

  • Option #1: Instant Pot Proofing

    Coat the Instant Pot stainless insert with OLIVE OIL. Place dough ball face down in the pot, flip to coat with oil, and rest seam-side down. Cover pot with a lid or plate. Select “yogurt” button and toggle the “adjust” button to “normal” indicator and set timer for 1 hour. Allow dough to rise until it doubles in size (30-60 minutes).

    Option #2: Room temperature proofing

    Place dough face down in a large, oiled, mixing bowl, flip to coat with oil, and rest seam-side down. Cover with a kitchen towel or loose fitting plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature (75°-100°F) until dough doubles in size (45-90 min).

Step 7: Second proofing

  • Punch down dough to deflate air and repeat step 6.

Step 8: Shape dough into final form

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Press out the air bubbles with your hands. Divide into preferred size(s). Tuck and shape into loaf or free-form (round or baguette).

    Note: The images in this recipe are “free-form rounds”

  • Place formed dough 1) in oil-coated loaf pan or 2) on parchment-covered baking sheet for free-form.
  • Brush oil on the dough surface or mist water and lightly dust the surface with flour. (This is a matter of preference for final presentation).

Step 9: Final Proofing

  • Score loaf 1/8” deep with a razor blade in various places, then cover dough with a kitchen towel or plastic. Allow to rise in a warm place until size doubles (about 30 min). The top of a preheating oven is a great place for this.

Step 10: Bake the bread

  • Bake 25 minutes (loaf pan) or 20 minutes (free form loaf).

    Baked bread should be browned on the surface and will have a hollow sound in the center when the bottom is tapped with your fingernails.

    FOR A CRISPER CRUST: Turn oven off and leave bread in for 5 minutes.

  • Remove bread from oven and allow to rest about 5 minutes. Transfer loaf out of pan or off baking sheet onto a cooling rack.

    Allow to cool before slicing to allow carryover cooking.

Recipe Notes

How to know when dough is done kneading

Yeast bread is done kneading when it passes any of these tests

  • pull test – dough doesn’t tear when you pinch or tug a piece away from itself
  • windowpane test – dough doesn’t tear when you stretch a small portion thinly enough to see light coming through
  • poke test – dough springs back when you press an indentation with your finger

How to serve Cranberry Walnut Bread

  • sliced and toasted with a schmear of your favorite soft cheese
  • as a turkey sandwich using holiday leftover roast turkey breast
  • turn it into crostini for appetizers and bruschetta
  • turn it into croutons for salads or a fun snack

Nutrition

Serving: 2oz | Calories: 138kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 118mg | Potassium: 43mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition data provided as courtesy estimates using unbranded ingredients from a nutrition database. Please consult preferred resource for precise data.

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