Whole Wheat Cranberry-Orange Loaf

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Whole Wheat Cranberry-Orange Loaf

star rating (14) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

Not every holiday bread is sweet, despite the evidence produced by endless variations on egg- and sugar-rich fruit breads. The following dense, chewy country loaf, studded with pecans and cranberries and scented with orange, features the toasty, nutty flavor of whole wheat, and the tang of orange and cranberry tempered by a touch of honey.

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 cup water

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon King Arthur Whole-Grain Bread Improver
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/8 teaspoon orange oil
1 cup (3 ounces) chopped toasted pecans
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries*, very coarsely chopped; OR 1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries

*Use fresh or frozen cranberries if you enjoy their very assertive tart flavor; use sweetened dried cranberries for a milder effect.

Sponge: In a large mixing bowl, the bowl of an electric mixer, or in the pan of your bread machine, combine the sponge ingredients, mixing till smooth. Cover the bowl and allow the sponge to rest for 2 to 10 hours, at your convenience.

Manual Method: Add all of the ingredients, except the pecans and cranberries, to the puffy sponge. Mix until a rough dough forms, then knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is somewhat smooth; since this dough is made almost entirely from whole wheat, it won't be nearly as supple and silky as a white-flour dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour. It'll become somewhat puffy, but won't double in bulk.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients except the pecans and cranberries into the pan of your bread machine (atop the puffy sponge), program the machine for Dough or Manual, and press Start. Check the dough about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle; it should be stiff but fairly smooth. Adjust the dough's consistency as necessary with additional water or all-purpose flour. Allow the machine to complete its cycle.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and knead in the pecans and cranberries. There's a lot of fruit and nuts here, so don't be discouraged when it appears it doesn't all want to go into the dough; just keep pushing it in and kneading, and eventually it'll all be incorporated. Shape the dough into a flattened 6-inch round, place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and allow it to rise for 2 hours, or until it's noticeably expanded, though not doubled in bulk.

Bake the bread on the middle rack of a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil midway through the baking time if it appears to be browning too quickly. The interior temperature will be between 185°F and 200°F when the bread is done. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack. Yield: 16 slices.

Nutrition information per serving (1/2-inch slice, 63g): 180 cal, 7.1g fat, 4g protein, 20g complex carbohydrates, 4g dietary fiber, 203mg sodium, 133mg potassium, 2RE vitamin A, 2mg vitamin C, 1mg iron, 15mg calcium, 106mg phosphorus.


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  • star rating 11/26/2014
  • Emily from Flint, MI
  • I made this loaf yesterday, and now I'm having it for breakfast today toasted with strawberry butter. It's the perfect balance of tart, sweet, and savory. I think next time, though, I'll try baking it in a loaf pan to make the shape a bit more regular. I'm so glad I read the reviews about the sponge. It was basically a dry, mini dough ball. Nothing like other sponges I've made before. I did add an extra 1/4-1/2 tsp of water to it because it wasn't coming all together. Then I just left it in my bread machine pan in the (unplugged) bread machine for a little over two hours. I added the rest of the ingredients to the bread machine, and it mixed well on the dough setting. I didn't have orange oil or the dough improver, so I used orange zest (from a whole naval orange) and vital wheat gluten (4 tsp, as indicated on the package). It was difficult kneading in the pecans and the cranberries. You just have to do it about 1/4 cup at a time and just keep going (tip: it goes faster if you don't look at the clock, haha). I did the pecans first and then the cranberries, but I recommend kneading in the cranberries first because as they got smushed into the dough, they released a small amount of moisture that made kneading a bit easier (I used fresh cranberries). Thanks for the tip on what temperature to look for on a thermometer because my oven is wonky (I live in a rental), so the oven temperature kept going up and down between 325 and 350 degrees. I ended up having to add about 10 min to the bake time. Thanks for the recipe!
  • star rating 10/09/2014
  • Laura from Phoenixville, PA
  • This recipe was great! I had much more success with it than I have with other almost-completely whole grain breads, despite the fact that I was out longer than I intended and the final, two-hour rise extended to more like three. It was definitely wider and shorter than it should have been, but still delicious. Like others have said, the sponge is not going to have the consistency you expect--it was an almost-stiff dough, but over the course of a a few hours, it did indeed exhibit some rising. One note--I plumped the dried cranberries in hot water and drained them well before incorporating, and it was not a good idea. It was even more difficult to get them to incorporate into the dough because they wouldn't stick to it.
  • star rating 12/24/2013
  • Naila from Chicago
  • This hearty bread, chew if you are into European style breads. Spread some almond butter and honey on it. It is heavenly!
  • star rating 07/06/2013
  • Marissa from California
  • Am a professional baker, this one disappoints on all counts!
    I am sorry to hear that this recipe did not work out for you. Please give our Baker's Hotline a call if you'd like to troubleshoot the recipe!-Jon 855 371 2253
  • star rating 11/19/2012
  • Meg from Retsof, NY
  • The comments about the dry sponge were correct, and if I hadn't read them before I started the bread I would have assumed that something was wrong with either me or the recipe. Don't panic - the sponge will be fine. This bread is very easy to make and delicious - I ate way too much of it and started another loaf. I did not have the orange oil, so I used the zest of a large orange, which worked very well.
  • star rating 11/11/2012
  • Naila from Chicago, IL
  • I have made this bread several times. It goes well with almond butter and honey for breakfast or as snack to take with you on a trip or to office. It is plentiful, flavorful and delicious. Healthy too.
  • 10/19/2012
  • Alison from MN
  • I am just beginning this recipe and agree with another comment that the sponge seems unusually dry. I have just set it up. I though I had done something wrong with the type of ww flour I am using so I added the other water the recipe calls for (not in the sponge instructions) and it is still dry! I hope it works, I am looking forward to trying this recipe.
  • star rating 12/14/2010
  • Jennifer75 from KAF Community
  • Delicious! I had no Whole Grain Bread Improver or orange oil so I left those out. I did add some orange zest, and I used fresh cranberries. It was awesome bread!
  • star rating 11/27/2010
  • kb_mw from KAF Community
  • Excellent. I made this for thanksgiving dinner and it received rave reviews from my guests. I used frozen cranberries and pulsed them a few times in the food processor along with the toasted pecans to chop them. I made the recipe exactly as stated except I used one tablespoon of wheat gluten rather than the whole-grain bread improver, and I used the grated zest of one large orange rather than the orange oil. Next time I will make it in my covered stonewear baker for a different shape. The leftovers are great toasted with cheddar cheese or just butter (eating them right now!).
  • star rating 02/02/2010
  • dorabee from Central Oklahoma
  • I forgot to add that I did not have white whole wheat and used 100% whole wheat flour. I would like to try this with the white whole wheat, but if you don't have it, the 100% whole wheat turned out just fine.
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