Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cranberry Bread - the Best Christmas Gift

I haven't ever posted a recipe or anything food related here, but I'm going to give it a shot, because, hey, it's Christmas. Disclaimers: I'm no Pioneer Woman, so I hope you don't have any expectations. Also, I stole the format (and maybe even the tone) for this post from her cooking posts. I love the way she takes pictures of the process, and my admiration may come across as imitation. But really, it's just flattery, right? However, I am not a great writer, I'm not a fancy photographer, and this is a REALLY simple recipe, so really, you probably won't get us confused.

Cranberry Bread (it is a proper noun) is the perfect gift. Wrap it up in tin foil, put a red ribbon around it, and voila! It's also good to bring to the office Holiday Potluck (which is what I'm doing tomorrow).

Start with all these ingredients:

I used margarine this time, because it's what I have. Also, I kind of like it better for consistency reasons, but butter doesn't suck. Use whatever you have. Also, I use imitation vanilla, because I don't have a refined palette and I'm poor. Everything here is readily available in any store at any time. Except the cranberries - those only come to stores from late October through Christmas. The earlier you get the cranberries, the better - if you wait until after Thanksgiving, you'll end up throwing out half of every bag, because they'll be going bad. As soon as I start to see them in stores, I buy as much as I can, and I freeze them all.

Ok, time to get started. Before anything else, preheat the oven and grease the bread pans:

If you haven't yet perfected the act of dusting flour in a greased bread pan, I don't know what to tell you. It's easy. You dump a spoonful of sugar in the bottom and shake until there's flour everywhere. It's an art. It's better to grease and flour than to use some sort of non-stick cooking spray. Trust me.

After the pans are floured, set them aside and get ready for the fun stuff!! Put the softened, butter / margarine into a mixing bowl and dump the sugar on top of it. Turn on the mixer.

Stop the mixer when the mixture looks like this:

Then add the vanilla and eggs.

I will never be the kind of baker who a) breaks eggs perfectly so that the yolk doesn't break and b) doesn't have to pick shells out of the batter. I've come to terms with that. Also, this is the time to get creative with any other flavorings you'd like to add. I bet a little orange zest would be really great, or maybe some nutmeg to make it more savory? I don't know - go nuts!

Wash all the gooey raw egg off of your fingers - or maybe that's me. (I love Bath and Body Works' Christmas scents!) Ok, back to work. Mix in the eggs and vanilla, and turn off the mixer. Then add the sour cream. I have a really scientific way of measuring how much sour cream to mix in. The recipe calls for 1 cup. I usually buy a 16 oz. container of sour cream, and then I put about half of it into the batter. Feel free to actually use measuring cups.

Once the sour cream is blended in, mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add it all in. Don't be delicate. Just dump it. Turn the mixer on low, though, so the flour doesn't fly everywhere when you start mixing.

When the dry ingredients are mixed in, the batter is basically done. It should be the consistency of a thick cake dough. I don't know if you can see it in this picture, but I tried.

Now, it's time to set aside the batter for a minute and get out your cranberries. Put them in a strainer and rinse them with cold water. You'll have to pick out the ones that aren't good anymore. These will be easy to spot - shriveled, mushy, discolored, etc. If you're using frozen berries, make sure they're completely thawed before you start, because the extra water can make mushy bread if you bake frozen berries into the bread. Also, if you're using frozen berries, they will be softer when they come back to room temp, but that doesn't mean they're mushy and bad.

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of berries, but I ALWAYS put in at least 2 heaping cups. The more berries, the better. You want there to be berries in every bite. It's like in the movie "Casino" where Ace is upset because one blueberry muffin has hundreds of berries and another muffin has 3. You don't want that. Neither does anyone who will be partaking.

Once the berries are folded in ...

... it is time to evenly divide the batter between the two pans. I never actually get an even division, though. Just eyeball it. (Side note: it's really hard to take pictures of myself stirring in cranberries.)

Don't do anything crazy like try to spread out the dough, or shake it so that it settles into the corners. Leave it lumped and misshapen. That stuff will all work itself out in the oven. Bake it for 55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and it looks like this:

Run a knife around the edges, because inevitably, some of the cranberries will stick to the sides of the pan. It's also advisable to let the bread sit in the pans for about 3-5 minutes to cool. Then, turn the bread out of the pans onto a cooling rack. Then step back and admire how beautiful they are. Then try to resit tearing a corner off of the loaf.

Someday I'll have a kitchen with enough counter space so that I don't have to clear off a space on my desk to cool baked goods (how do you like my computer monitor in the background there?). Sometimes when you turn the bread out of the pan, little bits of it stick to the bottom - mostly cranberries. This is not a tragedy. Eat those bits. It will help you not eat the pretty loaves you're planning to bring to the holiday potluck.

So, that's my little Cranberry Bread adventure. The recipe is below. I hope the Pioneer Woman never sees this, because I'll have to shut down my blog and go into hiding out of embarrassment. But I hope you see it and like it and maybe get some deliciousness out of it.




1 ½ cups sugar
1 stick margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs; mix well. Add sour cream; mix well. Add flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in cranberries. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake bread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean - about 55 minutes.


  1. WOW!!! This is amazing!I can't wait to share it with everyone! You rock!

  2. I think of that scene in Casino pretty much EVERY TIME I see a blueberry muffin or scone.

  3. Mr. PacScuba, you can share it with anyone you want! Thank you for your enthusiasm. Have you met my husband? I think you'd like him.

    Bryan, I just keep thinking of the chef in that scene asking, "Do you know how long that's going to take?" This doesn't take very long. BTW, after you told me about that Symbolism article, I started seeing every book blogger and literary entity I follow on Twitter posting it. Congrats on being way ahead of the curve.