Cranberry-Walnut Loaf: One of My Top 3 Breads from Bread Illustrated

My grocery list as a bachelorette looked a lot different than it does nowadays.

For example, I used to have to throw out half a block of cheddar cheese because it would go moldy before I had the chance to finish it. These days, that simply does not happen.

Also, bread. Before I entered my fanatic bread baking phase a few months back, I bought regular loaves at the grocery store just like everyone else. (Okay, I bought slightly fancy regular bread – I just can’t do the bagged stuff.)

Before I met Cedric, my go to bread was a cranberry walnut loaf with some crunchy grain that I bought at Nesters in Whistler. It was slightly tinted blue, if I recall correctly. It was a pretty small loaf and wasn’t the cheapest, but it was so delicious.

Eventually, Cedric started eating the bread at my house and it was revealed that he didn’t love my special blue bread. What?!!? He confessed that he doesn’t love raisins (or craisins, evidently) in his bread. I was astounded, but because relationships are about compromise, I started buying a different kind of bread.

Fast forward to the present day – here I am, flipping through my trusty Bread Illustrated cookbook (which I’ve already had to tape some pages back into due to excessive wear and tear), when I stumble across a recipe for a cranberry-walnut loaf. Where has this recipe been all my life?

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(Cue the heavenly angel music)

This loaf is astounding. I’d place it in my top three recipes from the book so far (the other two being the cinnamon bread and the Sicilian style pizza). Not only is it tasty as all heck, but it’s extremely convenient to make. It takes under 5 hours total (minus cooling time) from start to finish, so you can do it all in one day or even one afternoon. You don’t need any weird gear or equipment – no lava rocks here.

The bread is made with a combination of bread flour and whole-wheat flavour. As the book says, this results in a dense, earthy bread – one that would take a turkey sandwich to the next level, or that can simply enjoyed lightly toasted with nothing on it (or butter would be good, too).

You throw the flours, cranberries, walnuts, yeast, and salt all together at once into the mixer. I was hesitant about this because I’ve always thought that dry flour + dried fruit = flour gets stuck in the little folds and doesn’t get mixed with the other ingredients which can result in a nasty surprise when you bite into the final product. But I followed the book’s directions and it all turned out fine.

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Next, you pour in some water, brown sugar, and a tablespoon of vegetable oil and mix it for about ten minutes total. Then you leave it to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours. I went for a trail run and when I noticed I was getting close to the two hour mark, I forced myself to hustle hard to get back home. Nothing makes me run faster like the possibility of ruining a good loaf of bread.

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The dough gets shaped into a little torpedo, then placed on a bread covered with aluminum foil. The aluminum is a first – normally the book calls for parchment. Maybe the reflection factor affects the bake. Maybe the bread is just channeling its inner Chuck from Better Call Saul (does anyone else watch this show? It is so very underrated!)

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The only thing I screwed up was the score. You just had to cut it down the middle, which I did – and I thought I went pretty deep with my knife – but when I was rotating the loaf halfway through the making, it looked like the score had been swallowed up, so I re-cut the score. This is probably a bread baking faux pas and it may have ruined the integrity of my loaf’s aesthetic – but I don’t think it affected the taste.

Oh, I also skipped the egg wash. Unless the bread is a fancy dessert type bread, I’ve started skipping the egg wash. It just feels like a waste of egg to me, especially because most of our bread gets sliced up and tossed into the freezer right away.

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The loaf came out of the oven around bedtime, and I let it cool overnight. When I had it for breakfast this morning, I just about lost my mind. It was PERFECT. The cranberry and walnut were present, but the bread wasn’t overstuffed with them. They were also properly dispersed among the loaf (which I believe would earn me points on the GBBO). The walnuts are so deliciously buttery to bite through – mm mm mm mm mm.

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When it looks just like the picture in the book, you know you’ve got a winner on your hands

Unless you are like Cedric and have an aversion to dried fruit in your bread, I HIGHLY recommend trying this recipe out. It is a beginner friendly bread and it will take your breakfast (and possibly lunch, dinner, snack, and hey – even dessert) to the next level. My name is Magee, and I approve of this bread.


Edit: I loved this loaf so much that I made it again to bring to my family across the continent. I even sprang for the egg wash! I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in a paper bag, and it survived three days being squished in my luggage (which was lost for 24 hours).

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