Cranberry Walnut Bread

Special for the holidays, a European-style, barely sweet yeast bread studded with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts for Christmas. It's like cinnamon bread, all dressed up for Christmas with cranberries and walnuts! My recipe makes three loaves (one for yourself, one for a food gift or one for the freezer, perhaps?) or two loaves plus dinner-size rolls with a slightly chewy crust and a good crumb. It's my take on the seasonal cherry walnut bread from the bakery Great Harvest.

Cranberry Walnut Bread ♥, special for the holidays, a European-style, barely sweet yeast bread studded with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. Recipe, insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

Real Food, Fresh & Seasonal. Makes Excellent Toast! Perfect for Neighborly Food Gifts.

Oh Happy Day!

My sister (and her wonderful husband! and her inspiring older son!!) are coming for Christmas! #CallMeThrilled!

Once upon a time, Adanna and I somehow managed to spend nearly every Christmas together, even when it meant winter travel across hundreds of miles, even when parenting circumstances meant time-shifting by a day or two or three.

But by my reckoning, it's been nine years since she and I have spent Christmas together.

A Holiday Tradition Over Many Years

Cranberry Walnut Bread ♥, special for the holidays, a European-style, barely sweet yeast bread studded with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. Recipe, insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

Back then, my sister was fond of a seasonal cherry walnut bread from Great Harvest, a franchise bakery: a loaf or two or three became a tradition. Sleepy mornings and still in PJs, we'd settle in by the fireplace with mugs of morning tea and buttery slices of Cranberry Walnut Bread still warm from the toaster.

And shhhhh ... it's a surprise! This year we'll enjoy the same Great Harvest bread, just homemade! (And with dried cranberries instead of dried sour cherries since dried cranberries are more seasonal, easier to find and way cheaper.) On a whim, I adapted My Easy Everyday Bread Recipe and NAILED it the very first time.

Slightly Sweeter, Slightly Richer Plus Spices, Orange Zest

Flour, spices and orange zest for Cranberry Walnut Bread ♥, special for the holidays, a European-style, barely sweet yeast bread studded with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. Recipe, insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

It took just a few easy changes, really. The bread recipe still calls for 25% (or up to 33%) whole wheat flour. It's slightly richer, though calls for just a tablespoon of butter. It's slightly sweeter, though calls for only a half cup of brown sugar.

What really changes the flavor to holiday-special are spices, orange zest and of course, an abundance of dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.

Four batches later, I still adore this bread! It's special, y'know, having a seasonal bread in your recipe arsenal, just for the holidays!

This Cranberry Walnut Bread Is a Yeast Bread Not a Quick Bread

Cranberry Walnut Bread ♥, special for the holidays, a European-style, barely sweet yeast bread studded with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. Recipe, insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

You probably know that nearly all cranberry walnut loaves are quick breads, sweet cakes really, leavened with baking powder or baking soda. Not this!

My Cranberry Walnut Bread is a yeast bread, a European-style loaf with a slightly chewy crust and a crumb that takes just a bit of "tug" to bite into – now studded with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.

Walnuts for Cranberry Walnut Bread ♥, special for the holidays, a European-style, barely sweet yeast bread studded with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. Recipe, insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

If I say so myself ... it's amazing. It uses easy pantry ingredients, nothing out of the ordinary. It mixes up quickly in just two bowls. It needs only simple bread-making techniques. It handles well. It rises beautifully either set out or in the fridge. It bakes reliably.

And in the mornings, dark early before the rest of the household rises? My sister and I will once again tuck in near the fire, hands wrapped around hot cups of coffee now, knowing that at breakfast, there will be buttery slices of toasted Cranberry Walnut Bread ...

You'll Like (Even Love!) My Cranberry Walnut Bread If ...

  • you're a fellow cranberry fiend
  • you love cinnamon bread
  • you like a not-very-sweet seasonal bread
  • you're looking for a special bread for the holidays
  • you bake for holidays gifts
  • good toast is your cinnamon roll

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How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe for a Christmas-y Cranberry Walnut Bead hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Cranberry Walnut Bread ♥, special for the holidays, a barely sweet yeast bread studded with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 4 hours
Makes about 3 pounds of bread, two or three loaves or a mix of small rolls and a loaf or two
    BOWL #1
  • 1 cup very hot water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits if cold
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1/4 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons (7g, 1 packet) active dry yeast
    BOWL #2
  • 3 cups (375g) bread flour
  • 1 cup (125g) whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • Zest of an orange, optional but lovely
  • 1-1/2 cups (185g) dried cranberries
  • 1-1/2 cups (140g) toasted walnuts, chopped
  • Extra bread flour, for kneading
  • A little melted butter, for the bowl for the first rise
  • A little soft butter, for the top crust after baking

BOWL #1 Stir the hot water and butter together until the butter melts. Stir in the milk and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar melts. Stir in the yeast. Let the mixture rest until the mixture begins to foam and bubble a little. If your kitchen is cool, this can take a few minutes.

BOWL #2 Stir together the flours, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, zest, cranberries and walnuts. Turn the contents of this bowl into Bowl #1 and mix together with a wooden spoon.

KNEAD Sprinkle a clean work surface with bread flour, with more nearby. Scrape the dough out onto the flour and form into a rough ball. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, sprinkling the work surface, the dough and your hands with more flour as needed. This is a fairly sticky dough, extra flour helps but use as little as you can manage. After kneading, fold the dough over itself to form a smooth ball.

FIRST RISE Re-use Bowl #2 for letting the dough rise, no need to wash it, just rub it all around with a little melted butter. Drop the ball of dough into the buttered bowl and swirl the dough around, coating the whole surface with a thin sheen of butter. Cover the dough and the bowl with a clean towel and place it in a warm place. Let the dough double in size; the timing will vary based on the temperature of your ingredients, the temperature of the room. In a warm kitchen, the dough might rise in an hour or two, in a cool kitchen like mine in the winter, it might take several hours.

Alternatively, for a Cold First Rise, place the covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight, say, then continue on; a Cold Rise dough won't rise as much but lots of good flavor develops!

"PUNCH" THE DOUGH DOWN "Punching" is a misnomer! Instead, once the dough has risen, just use a fist to gently (no punching!) press into and deflate the dough.

ROLLS? LOAVES? Decide how to shape the dough. This dough can make two or three loaves, two are nice for home, three make for a nice gift size. Or cut off some dough (about 80g worth per roll, say) to form rolls. Place the formed loaves or rolls on parchment-lined baking sheets. Three loaves can share a baking sheet but if you're doing both loaves and rolls, use separate baking sheets for each, be sure to leave room between for the dough to rise again.

SECOND RISE Cover the baking sheet(s) with a towel(s) and let the dough rise again until the rolls or loaves are full and fat but before air bubbles begin to form on the surface. Once again, the timing will vary, but the second rise will not take as long as the first rise. If the dough has been in the fridge, it will take longer than dough that had its First Rise at room temperature.

BAKE Heat oven to 350F/180C. Bake loaves for about 30 minutes, rolls for about 15 minutes, until the outer crust becomes a little darker and slightly crusty.

COOL Right away, turn the loaves or rolls onto a baking rack to cool, then brush the tops with a little butter to add shine and softness to the crust. If you can hold back, let the bread cool down before slicing into it: that said, this bread is wonderful warm (not hot) from the oven.

TO SERVE Serve as a morning bread or an afternoon tea bread. Or what about for grilled cheese sandwiches?! No jam is required, a little butter is lovely. Cranberry Walnut Bread is very, very good toasted, either in a toaster or lightly buttered/oiled and toasted in a skillet à la Fried Bread. Even the rolls can be sliced for fry bread! When it's cut thin and baked until crisp like crostini, Cranberry Walnut Bread also reminds me of those pricey crackers from Trader Joe's called Raisin Rosemary Crisps. Hmmm, rosemary. It might be a good addition!

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS The bread will keep several days. The more days that pass, the more you'll want to toast it.

NOW TRY CURRANT & PECAN BREAD For an easy variation, just substitute dried currants (look for boxes near the raisins) for dried cranberries and toasted pecans for walnuts. Since currants are unsweetened, you save a few calories and the bread somehow tastes even more like cinnamon bread. Not into nuts? Skip the pecans altogether.

HOW TO KNEAD THIS DOUGH WITH A MIXER A year after publishing this recipe, I started to really lean into using a stand mixer to make bread dough, including several minutes of kneading. For anyone who's just not going to knead bread by hand (I happen to love it ...), check out Is a Stand Mixer Better for Kneading Bread Dough? where I make the case both for and against. But let's say you say "yes" to using a mixer, here's how.
  • You'll use only one bowl, just the main mixing bowl where you'll collect, mix and then knead the dough. Do add the ingredients in the order shown. Before adding the yeast, use a finger to test the temperature of the bowl's contents. It should be slightly warm (or cooler); that should happen automatically once the hot water (that melts the butter) and the cold milk and brown sugar are stirred together.
  • Use the dough hook. But before turning on the mixer, I like to roughly stir together the dough ingredients, that's to avoid a big spray of flour when the mixer is turned on. Then let the mixer do its job, kneading the dough for 7 minutes.
  • Because you're not "kneading in" extra flour by hand, the dough will start off sticky and you'll need to add flour directly to the bowl. I just stand by and add bread flour about a tablespoon at a time, carefully dropping the flour into the bottom of the bowl while the mixer is running. Exercise patience: let each spoonful get fully absorbed into the dough before adding another. Exercise judgment: add as little extra flour as you can manage. Watch for visual signals, the dough should pull away from the bottom and the sides of the bowl.
  • Now return to the recipe, starting with First Rise. The one difference is that you'll probably need to brush your hands with a little flour to move and shape the dough.
ALANNA's TIPS Instead of cinnamon, I use a spice blend from Penzeys called "cake spice". You could stir together your own, a blend of cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves. More info about cake spice and its sister blend, baking spice, here. If you ever have trouble telling when bread is done, insert a digital thermometer into the center. A loaf like this is "done" at 190F/90C. And do trust your thermometer! I've made this bread many times, each and every time, the loaves were done in exactly 30 minutes. But one time? For some reason, I checked the thermometer and the center registered only 120F. But I went with my gut and pulled the bread out anyway. My gut? It was wrong. The center of the loaves were still completely undone. My bad. Was my winter kitchen a little drafty cold that day? Did I bake the loaves before they had had enough time during the Second Rise? Honestly, I have no idea. The cranberry and walnut calories really do add up. I think you could get away with a cup of each and not feel slighted. This is no time for dried up ol' bits of dried cranberries. Make sure they're fresh and plump! You can some times plump up overly dry dried fruit by soaking them for a couple of hours in apple cider, apple juice, grape juice or something similar. Ready to live on the wild side? Soak the fruit in dry sherry, white wine or something similar. One batch, I used some extra-plump dried cranberries from Trader Joe's, the ones packed with some sort of oil. Ick! That oil had gone rancid in very short order. I don't buy dried cranberries from Trader Joe's anymore, instead I hit Lucky's or Fresh Thyme or Global Foods here in St. Louis. Be sure your walnuts are toasted! Here's how. New idea! I need to try Cranberry Walnut Bread with a Missouri / Midwestern favorite, black walnuts!

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Weight Watchers Tip: When I'm counting points, I like to base the points on some small unit, for bread, that's usually per ounce, a small slice. That way, before eating, I weigh how much I've sliced off and multiply the points. So therefore:

Per Ounce: 96 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 1mg Cholesterol; 55mg Sodium; 16g Carb; 1g Fiber; 7g Sugar; 2g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 2 & PointsPlus 3 & SmartPoints 4 & Freestyle 4 & myWW green 4 & blue 4 & purple 4 & future WW points

Per Slice, assumes 36 slices: 128 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 2mg Cholesterol; 74mg Sodium; 22g Carb; 1g Fiber; 9g Sugar; 3g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 2.5 & PointsPlus 3 & SmartPoints 5 & Freestyle 5 & myWW green 5 & blue 5 & purple 5 & & future WW points

More Celebration Breads

~ celebration breads ~
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Armenian Easter Bread (Choereg or Choreg) ♥, a rich buttery braided yeast bread spiced with mahleb (or mahlab), a slice is perfect with a cup of coffee.

Pan de Muerto (Bread for Day of the Dead) ♥, the traditional bread from Latin America to communicate with loved ones who have passed on. Detailed instructions for all skill levels.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ orange recipes ~
~ cranberry recipes ~
~ walnut recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Carole1/17/2020

    I am the “bread maven” but tried your dried cherry / walnut bread and it is wonderful! Doubled for 6 loaves and have 1 left. It has served well for a holiday breakfast, a soup-salad-bread lunch and a bridge club lunch.

    1. Anonymous6/20/2022

      For a warm place - and you kind of have to know it won’t overflow on you - try placing the bowl (works for sourdough starters too) on top of your cable box. It’s warm but not hot. I place a clean baking sheet on top, but it works great! Especially if you want to monitor it while binge watching your favorite show.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna