Cranberry Orange Bread

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Bake up a delicious loaf of cranberry orange bread for the holidays! The tart berries in the citrusy batter make for juicy fruit bites in each slice. Perfect for breakfast, dessert, or as an edible gift.

slices of cranberry orange bread with glaze
Table of Contents
  1. Cranberry Selection
  2. Pan selection
  3. Ingredients for a moist texture
  4. Enhance the flavor of the bread
  5. The key to a domed loaf
  6. Make the batter
  7. Baking temperature and time
  8. How to tell when the bread is ready
  9. Add an orange glaze
  10. Serve this with
  11. FAQ
  12. Cranberry Orange Bread Recipe

When fresh cranberries appear in the market, be sure to grab a bag to make this fall-inspired quick bread. The tart berries have a unique taste, but when paired with citrus, it’s a winning combination. Warm slices of bread are perfect with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning or an easy dessert to share.

This recipe couldn’t get any easier! I bake whole berries in an orange-scented batter. When they pop, they release their juices that then infuse into the bread. I use two types of leavening agents. The extra lift ensures a perfectly domed top. Plus, I have a stunning orange glaze to drizzle over the loaf.

Cranberry Selection

I use whole fresh cranberries to make this quick bread recipe. They appear at the market around mid-October. Alternatively, you can use frozen cranberries. There is no need to defrost them, but you may need a longer bake time. You can also use dried cranberries, but reduce the amount by 25%.

They are typically sweetened, so the flavor will not be as tart. I like to soak them in hot water for at least 5 minutes to rehydrate and become nice and plump. You could also use orange juice or liquor like Grand Marnier to add more flavor, let them soak longer, about 20 minutes.

Pan selection

I use a metal 9×5-inch loaf pan for baking. This type of material heats up quickly but doesn’t retain heat very long after removing it from the oven. This is okay because we don’t rely on carryover cooking to complete baking. You can use a glass pan, but it takes longer to heat up and may need a slightly longer bake time. Don’t forget to grease the pan with baking spray, so removing the loaf later is easy.

fresh cranberries in a bowl of bread batter

Ingredients for a moist texture

The proper flour, sweetener, and fat ratio are critical to making a tender and moist cranberry orange bread. All-purpose flour is moderate in protein level so that it’s soft but sliceable. If you want a healthier option, you could use white whole wheat flour like these cranberry muffins

I use a combination of granulated sugar and light brown sugar for a hint of molasses. This mix helps to balance the tartness of the berries. The sweetener absorbs some moisture from the ingredients, helping to reduce the amount of gluten-formation, making the bread texture tough. Vegetable oil is neutral in flavor and helps to coat the proteins in the flour for tender bites. Sour cream adds additional fat to the batter and acidity to react with the baking soda to leaven the batter. 

Enhance the flavor of the bread

To make the citrus flavor pop, use the zest and juice of an orange. You can also use store-bought orange juice, but I wouldn’t skip the zest. It contains citrus oil that adds a lingering aroma and flavor. Ground cinnamon provides a warm spice taste and makes your house smell fragrant. Vanilla extract rounds out the baked notes in the batter and adds dimension.

The key to a domed loaf

A trio of leaving agents gives a nicely risin surface. Baking soda and baking powder are used in equal amounts to create carbon dioxide bubbles. This process starts once the dry ingredients mix with the wet and continue as the batter heats up and traps the air for the sought-out dome shape.

Eggs are also suitable for trapping air when whipped, emulsifying the mixture, and the proteins help to bind the ingredients together. It’s best to use room-temperature eggs because it’s very viscous, making them easier to incorporate.

Make the batter

Mix the dry ingredients like flour, leavening agents, and spices in a separate bowl. The particles are delicate, ensuring even distribution throughout the batter without worrying about overmixing later. Whisk the sugars and eggs together to dissolve the granules and whip in some air. 

Add the oil gradually to keep the ingredients emulsified. Then mix in the sour cream, orange juice, zest, and milk. The small amount of milk helps with browning and flavor from the cooked milk solids. Carefully mix the wet and dry ingredients, then fold in the cranberries at the very end so they all don’t sink to the bottom of the bowl. Add the batter to the greased loaf pan, and it’s ready to bake!

Cooling cranberry orange bread on a wire rack

Baking temperature and time

With the large volume of batter, it’s best to use a moderate oven temperature of 350ºF (176ºC). This setting ensures that the center cooks while developing a golden brown top and sides. The process takes about one hour. If you see the surface getting perfectly golden before that, just loosely cover the top with foil so that it doesn’t burn.

How to tell when the bread is ready

There are two ways to check the loaf for doneness. The first is when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It’s ready. I also like to use an instant-read thermometer. It should read between 195 to 200ºF (90 to 93ºC). 

Let the bread cool slightly in the pan for 10 minutes so that it’s easier and safer to remove. Then place it on a wire rack to allow the steam to release and the air to circulate without causing the bread to get soggy on the bottom.

streaks of vanilla glaze on top of a loaf of bread

Add an orange glaze

Now it’s time for the fun part! The glaze is a simple mixture of powdered sugar and orange juice. It doesn’t seem like much, but you only need a small amount of liquid to hydrate the fine sugar particle. 

Mix until smooth. It should be the consistency of school glue so that it drizzles and sticks to the top. Add as much or as little as you like. My family always asks for more! Once it dries, it will harden and be easy to slice.

Serve this with

slices of bread showing cranberries inside

FAQ

How do you substitute dried cranberries for fresh ones?

Use 25% less dried cranberries, unless you want a lot of cranberry pieces in each slice. Dried cranberries are concentrated in flavor and size, so add less compared to fresh. Hydrate the dried berries in hot water for 5 minutes to make them juicy.

What other mix-ins can I add?

Chocolate chips or chopped nuts like walnuts and pecans make for delicious additions. Add about ½ cup to the cranberry bread batter.

slices of bread on a white serving platter

Do not overmix the bread batter!

It’s critical not to overmix the batter. Otherwise, the texture will become tough and rubbery. Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together to hydrate the flour, but keep some visible. The moment the flour proteins come into contact with moisture, gluten formation occurs. The more agitation and stirring, the tighter those bonds get, making a more robust protein structure that packs together and tastes tougher.

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Cranberry Orange Bread

This holiday, bake up a loaf of cranberry orange bread with a citrus sugar glaze. Perfect for breakfast, dessert, or as an edible gift.
Pin Print Review
4.5 from 4 votes
Prep Time30 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings 12 servings
Course Bread
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Bread

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup sour cream, or plain greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups fresh cranberries

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons orange juice

Instructions 

  • Set the oven rack to the center position—Preheat to 350ºF (176ºC).
  • Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or vegetable oil.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon until combined.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until smooth and pale yellow, 1 minute.
  • Slowly whisk the vegetable oil into the egg mixture until thoroughly mixed, about 30 seconds.
  • Whisk in sour cream, whole milk, orange juice, vanilla extract, and orange zest into the egg mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Gently fold the mixture until just moistened, making sure to scrape the bottom with lumps and flour spots remaining. Do not over mix the batter.
  • Add the cranberries, gently fold it into the batter.
  • Pour batter into a greased pan and smooth top with a spatula.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or the internal temperature reaches 195 to 200ºF (90 to 93ºC), about 50 to 60 minutes. If needed, cover loosely with foil about 30 to 45 minutes into baking to prevent the top from getting too brown.
  • Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  • Run a knife or small spatula around the sides of the pan, carefully remove the bread and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Once warm, make the glaze.

Glaze

  • In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange zest. Gradually add more powdered sugar or juice as needed to modify the thickness.
    Drizzle over the cooled bread. Let the glaze set and dry for a few minutes before slicing.

Notes

  • Storing: Store at room temperature for 4 to 5 days in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
  • Freezing: Slices can be individually wrapped in plastic and stored in a bag in the freezer for up to 1 month. Reheat by wrapping in a paper towel and microwave on medium power for 60 to 90 seconds.
  • Using Dried Cranberries: Substitute fresh cranberries for 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dried cranberries. Soak in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes to plump up, then drain well before using.
  • Make it Dairy-Free: Use unsweetened cashew or almond milk instead of cow’s milk. Use dairy-free sour cream or dairy-free yogurt.
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free flour instead of wheat flour. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 baking flour.
  • How to Make Muffins: Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners or lightly grease. Fill each cup about ⅔ full. Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F degrees and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Total baking time is about 18 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove muffins from the pan, and place them on a cooling rack.

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Nutrition Facts
Cranberry Orange Bread
Amount Per Serving
Calories 186 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 36mg12%
Sodium 212mg9%
Potassium 119mg3%
Carbohydrates 37g12%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 21g23%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 130IU3%
Vitamin C 5mg6%
Calcium 46mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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6 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Teresa Syring says

    Hello Jessica.
    This is a very yummy bread recipe thank you.
    I made it today and used 1/2 fresh and 1/2 dried cranberries, and instead of whole milk I used 1 tablespoon of whipping cream and 1tablespoon of triple sec.

    The whipped cream was what I had and the triple sec is because my orange was sour.

    Anyway this bead is so delicious.
    Thank you and happy Thanksgiving. Teresa.

      • Teresa Syring says

        I took this bread to a meeting and everyone loved it.
        What we like best is the flavor gets better even three days old.

        I will be making it again for Thanksgiving.

        Thank you for all your wonderful recipes.
        Teresa.

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