Back before the yeast shortage of 2020, I was a bread making beast. This is one of my favorite easy breads for beginners because it’s fairly simple, has few ingredients, and always comes out tasting amazing.
This bread makes toast that is ideal for both sweet and savory options. Peanut butter with strawberries is one of my faves for breakfast, but it would also be dreamy as a complement to an autumn skillet meal or a vegan grilled cheese with pears and jam. Get creative with this bread, and tag me on Facebook or Instagram, I would love to see what you come up with.
How to make this bread:
I use a food processor with a dough blade to knead my dough, but of course you can use a standing mixer, bread machine, or knead it by hand. It doesn’t really matter which way you’d like to tackle it, as the outcome should be about the same either way.
The first thing to do when starting any loaf of bread is to get your yeast ready to go. Add your sugar, yeast, and warm water in the bowl or food processor where you’ll be mixing the dough. The sugar acts as a food for the yeast, which is why it’s important to let the this mixture sit for a few minutes so it can fully develop. If you use hot water, it may kill the yeast. If you accidentally kill it, as I’ve done many a time before, you can just add a little more yeast, no need to throw out the whole thing. Remember though, that warm water will make the yeast thrive, check the temp before you pour the water. You should start to see your water get cloudy and develop little puffy clusters of yeast after a few moments. After about 5-8 or so minutes with instant yeast, or 10-15 for regular active dry yeast, you can add in your other ingredients slowly and start mixing. If you need a little more water to keep the dough If kneading by hand, do so for about 10 minutes, zone out, and call it meditation. If you’re taking the easy way out like me, let your dough blade knead for about 5 minutes. This is important because it builds up the gluten content, which traps the gasses created by the yeast, and allows the bread to rise to a perfect fluffy state. Under kneaded bread turns out flat and dense. Also, as a pro tip, if you have vital wheat gluten from making homemade seitan, you can add in a tablespoon of it here to give your bread extra pliability.
Spritz a 8×8 or 10×10 cast iron skillet with olive oil and gently place your dough ball in it, then cover with a clean towel. I usually let mine rise for about an hour or an hour fifteen in a warmer area, like near a heater or on the stove top if the oven is on. You can even pop into your oven at 90-100° if you don’t have a warm spot handy. After the dough has doubled in size, remove from the skillet and fold in your cranberries and walnuts. This will knock out air bubbles caused by the yeast letting gasses out, so return to the skillet, cover, and let it rise again. After about fifteen minutes, put your cast iron into the preheated oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes.
Instead of cranberries, you can use 1 cup of raisins, or even dehydrated apples, figs, or apricots.
Rather than walnuts, pecans can be added to this bread.
1 teaspoon of cinnamon or cardamom can also be added directly to the dough or sprinkled on top.
For a sweeter bread, add in 2 tablespoons more sugar during the yeast activation period. Drizzle the top of the dough with maple syrup or sprinkle on a tablespoon of coarse sugar before baking for a sweet crust.
How to store homemade bread:
I keep a giant airtight container on deck at all times. Whether there’s a cake, cookies, or a honkin beautiful loaf of bread in there, it’s pretty much on my counter 24/7. After baking, let your toasty hot gorgeous cranberry walnut bread cool before putting in your container or the steam will get trapped inside and the moisture can cause it go get moldy before you have a chance to eat it. Sadly, this has happened to me, and there is no greater baking tragedy, so head my warnings.
Alternatively, you can keep in a big glass bowl with a lid. Many people go the tinfoil or plastic bag route, but in an effort to keep a a no waste kitchen, there are a few swaps you can make. Check out these awesome silicon lids from Earth & Friends if you’re looking for ideas. They’re the perfect sustainable replacement to the plastic wrap your grandma got down with, because you use, wash, and reuse without ever contributing to the trash cycle. Yassss sustainability.
This bread will stay good for about a week before it starts getting a little stale. Usually, if I know I won’t be able to eat a whole loaf of bread by myself, I cut a few slices off of the end of the loaf, and put them in an airtight container in the freezer. These stay good for a few weeks at a time, and always save me from waking up to a hungry husband making weird breakfast concoctions like bananas, yogurt, and peanut butter in a taco shell … You can pull a piece or two out of the freezer when you’re ready, reheat in the toaster like supermarket frozen bagels. If your bread is getting a little stale, chop it into cubes and toast for 5-6 minutes on a baking sheet for some quick and delicious homemade croutons. This bread in particular would be amazing on a fall salad with roasted squash and vegan f