BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Made with Love

28 Comments

It was the kind of loaf only a baker could love; Emerging from the oven no more attractive than a deflated beach ball, or perhaps a totaled UFO about to make a final descent, it was certainly a sight to behold. Regular loaf pans just weren’t good enough this time around, oh no, it had to be more “special” than that… And boy, was it ever special.

Some devious combination of boredom, curiosity, and creativity drove me to plop a perfectly good yeast dough into a large metal bowl, of all things. Here I though I had just figured out a quick-fix solution to the traditional round bread, no real shaping or braiding required, but my imagined brilliance soon turned to foolishness, as I puzzled over the less than stunning results. Perhaps it could have worked with a smaller bowl, but the fact of the matter was that this was a Hannukah gift, due to be delivered in a matter of hours, thanks to my terrible procrastination. No way to fix it, no time to make another, all I could do was swallow my pride and wrap the yeasty thing up in so much tinsel and curly ribbons that all other ugliness could be overlooked.

Dropped off with little ceremony, obligatory thank you’s exchanged, I was ready to forget all about that bread abortion. Going straight to the computer as soon as I returned home that evening, I sent the recipe to the virtual trash can. What a disappointment of a grandchild I must me, giving that mess to my loving Nana!

Days later, with the fiasco safely out of mind, I learned that the gift had actually been much more of a success than imaginable. I got reports of near raves about that misfit bread, despite its abundant flaws. Looks aren’t everything, huh? So into the digital recycling bin I dove, retrieving the recipe, determined to make a new loaf not nearly so homely in order to blog about it.

And wouldn’t you know, it still came out ugly as sin.

Suspend disbelief for just a moment, and remember that looks aren’t everything. I may not be a fantastic bread-braider, or even a borderline competent one, but don’t let that stop you from giving this soft, gently sweetened loaf a shot. Redolent with gentle citrus flavor, the orange essence pairs beautifully with the tart cranberries punctuating each tender bite. A handful of walnuts add just enough toasted flavor and crunch to add depth, rounding out this loaf both in texture and taste. Simple, yes, but made with great care and plenty of love.

Try baking it in a traditional loaf pan if you’d like to simplify things and perhaps end up with a more presentable loaf, but either way, it will still taste just as good.

Nana’s Cranberry Bread

1 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar
1 0.6-Ounce Cube Fresh Yeast, or 1 1/4-Ounce Packet Active Dry Yeast
3 to 3 1/2 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
2/3 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 Cup Toasted, Chopped Walnuts
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Orange Extract (or 1 Additional Tablespoon Zest)

Vegan “Egg” Wash

Gently warm the non-dairy milk of your choice up to about room temperature; no hotter than 100 degrees or so, or else you’ll kill the yeast. Add in the agave, and if using dry yeast, sprinkle it over the top. Wait 5 – 10 minutes for it to become active and foamy.

In a large bowl, add the fresh yeast if using, 3 cups of flour, cranberries, walnuts, salt, zest, and cinnamon. Stir to combine, and add in the “milk” mixture, followed by the oil and extract. Mix well, until there are no more dry pockets of flour. If the mixture still seems very wet and sticky, mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Either use your dough hook attachment to knead the dough for 5 – 10 minutes, or turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 10 – 15, until the dough is smooth and tacky. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm place for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

Once doubled in volume, turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and gently press the air bubbles out with your knuckles. Shape as desired- I don’t think I’m qualified to instruct on the best method for this loaf, but if all else fails, just roll it up into a log and place it in a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Once shaped, cover and let rest again for 45 – 60 minutes, until not quite doubled in size.

Begin preheating your oven to 375 degrees when the loaf is nearly finished rising for a second time. Carefully brush with your “egg” wash, and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until golden brown all over and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 Loaf

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

28 thoughts on “Made with Love

  1. Still looks great to me :)

  2. Hannah, this bread is not ugly at all! As far as I can see, it has a perfect shape. And it sounds great!

  3. I make “egg wash” by just simply brushing the loaf with soymilk before baking it, gives sweet breads a nice, golden color, too, with no fuss. And – the bread looks great to me :-)

  4. It doesn’t matter how it looks, as long as it tastes good! At least, that’s what I tell my kids when they complain about how unartfully I drop meatloaf onto their dinner plates …

  5. Think of it as “quirky,” “arty,” “unique.” Whatever you call it, it sounds fragrant, fruity-spicy and delicious. I’d be thrilled to be presented with such a loaf!

  6. I love it’s unusual shape. And taste always triumphs over looks, at least in my book! I bet the orange zest really makes this bread.

  7. Hannah, I think it’s charmingly imperfect – the type of thing a Nana would love! Happy Hanukkah. :)

  8. I absolutely love your writing style. Sorry if I’ve said that a million times before. Your photos are always astounding too. If anyone can make bread ugly as sin look delicious in a photo, it’s you! :)

  9. I think it is beautiful! And definitely looks tasty.

  10. I firmly believe many of the ugliest foods in life are the tastiest ;) (Oatmeal mixed through with dark chocolate and peanut butter, anyone?) However, this looks gorgeous! Someone need to take an aesthetics-chill-pill…. :D :D

  11. I think it looks great… you probably had expectations an it didn’t look like what you envisioned.. but to us it’s lovely.

  12. Yum! I love cranberry bread. I actually had to make 2 loafs because once my mom tried a slice of mine, she requested a whole loaf for herself : ]
    Beautiful photo as always!

  13. Awww it looks rustic! :P

    My loaves never really come out super pretty, especially not when it matters most. I love the sound of this though. Cranberry challah? Delicious. Happy Hanukkah!

  14. Wait, what was wrong with it again? It looks totally fine to me. :-)

  15. It’ s beginning to look a lot like XMAS!

  16. YUMMM

    I am not the best bread-braider either ;) I love the flavor combo of walnuts and orange!!!

    ~Lori

  17. This bread sounds lovely for the holidays, rustic as it may be. I’d call it perfectly charming!

  18. Cranberry and orange are a delightful combination. And I think it looks great!

  19. Lovely texture for this beautiful loaf. First time to this wonderful space, would love to be here more often for such delicious treats from you. Best wishes.

  20. arent u glad for recycle bins in our computers? LOL. ANd please, this bread is not ugly at all! It looks pretty, and i love how it has all that cranberries studded within it!

  21. I think your bread looks beautiful! And perfect for morning toast too.

  22. I think you’re being too harsh on this lovely bread as I think it looks fine! Not much worse then the bread I baked yesterday..lol… which by the way was also quite delicious, so you are right. Looks are definitely not everything in some cases. But I love the sound of the ingredients that were used, so would love to make this soon too!

  23. FYI I finally posted my review of your book. Sorry it took so long. It’s lovely and the positive review is well-deserved. Just made the chocolate PB self-frosting cupcakes last night and my boyfriend (who rarely gets excited about food) wanted to eat them all XD.

  24. This is beautiful and looks so delicious!

  25. Thanks for this great recipe! I made it today – complete with fancy braiding – and it turned out lovely. Not to sweet, a perfect blend of flavors. I may try leaving out the bulk or all of the oil next time, as it was a bit heavy and I used almond milk which is nice and fatty all on its own.

  26. I love the way your bread looks – and it sounds delicious! :)
    I had never heard of this kind of vegan egg wash. Usually I just brush them with some soymilk, molasses, or coffee, which gives you a nice color – but I might try this one day.

  27. it alsmost looks like challah, or babka… not ugly to me! and this would make some killer french toast :)

  28. I love breads like this with nuts and fruit!

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