Weekly bread baking has continued at our home with even more enthusiasm now that the weather has cooled down and all things cozy are in order. This Sourdough Cranberry Bread is so delicious, especially when a thick slice is toasted and slathered in butter. When I was in college, bagels were all the rage, and I used to go to the college coffee shop and order a cranberry bagel toasted with butter every time. It was the BEST. This bread takes me back! The cranberries definitely give it holiday vibes and it would be perfect for gifting to neighbors and friends.
This recipe makes a lot of bread. I either make two standard-size loaves (10.5 by 5 inches), or one standard-size loaf and four mini loaves (6.75 by 3.75 inches). You can also just make one loaf of bread by cutting the recipe in half. But since it freezes and gifts so well, I like to make two at a time since it’s the same amount of work as making one loaf.
If you are just starting out your sourdough journey, these are some great places to begin your research. Emilie from The Clever Carrot has a very helpful post about getting started, and a great cookbook to add to your collection. King Arthur Baking has well-written articles, baking supplies, and many recipes.
Let’s make bread! To start our dough, we mix active, bubbly sourdough starter with lukewarm water, measuring precisely in grams with a kitchen scale. Tare or zero the scale in between each addition of honey, oil, salt, flour, and dry malt powder. To this batch, we are also adding our dried cranberries.
These are all the ingredients we need to make sourdough bread! Whisk the ingredients together to form a shaggy dough. You may still have some bits of flour that won’t quite incorporate. You don’t have to worry about getting everything perfectly smooth at this point. Cover the dough, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes have passed, we will start our “stretch and folds”. This will strengthen the gluten in our bread, allowing it to have a good structure and rise well in the oven. I think of the dough in four quadrants for this part. All you need to do is pull each corner of the dough up as far as you can, and then fold it over the top and tuck it under.
Repeat this for the remaining three “quadrants” or corners of the dough. Then cover the dough, and let it rest in a warm place for another hour. Repeat the “stretch and folds”, cover, and rest. And then do it one more time for a total of three “stretch and folds”.
After the third “stretch and fold” the dough is ready for its bulk rise. Cover the dough, and let it rise for 4-12 hours. It needs to double in size, and the warmer the environment is, the faster it will rise.
Note: You can also pause or delay your bread proofing process if needed by keeping the dough in the refrigerator. You can keep it chilled for up to three days before resuming the process and baking. This time in the refrigerator will count as your “bulk rise”, so when you take it out it is ready for shaping.
Once the dough has finished its bulk rise, use a dough scraper to pull it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Pull it into a loose rectangle shape, trying not to flatten the air out of the dough. Fold the short ends of the rectangle toward the center, and then roll the dough from the long end closest to you to the opposite side. Place the shaped loaf into the greased loaf pan.
Note: This is another point you can delay baking the bread if needed. If you didn’t place the dough in the refrigerator for the bulk rise, you can place the shaped dough into the loaf pans, cover, and chill until ready to bake for up to three days. I usually bake one loaf that day and place one shaped loaf in the fridge to bake three days later.
If you want to bake the same day, then cover the loaf pans, and let them rise in a warm place one more time. This time we need the dough to rise about an inch over the top of the pan.
Notice the difference in the pictures above. On the left is the dough before letting it rise. On the right is about six hours later. This part takes patience. I have sadly ruined a few loaves by baking them too soon. The bread will be very dense and won’t bake all the way through in the allotted baking time.
When the dough is ready to go into the preheated 375 degree oven, move the rack down to the center or lower third so it’s not too close to the heating elements. When it is baked through, the top will be a deep golden brown. Let it cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then turn it out onto a cooling rack. If it seems to resist, run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen it.
Kitchen scale – I would not attempt to make sourdough bread without a kitchen scale.
Dough Whisk – This tool is very helpful in bringing any dough together, not just sourdough.
Bowl scraper – I love using a dough scraper because there is less dough waste, and it makes cleaning up easier.
Bench scraper – This tool is helpful in cutting dough into portions, transferring shaped loaves to the pan, and cleaning up a floured work surface. I use this tool almost every day!
Dry Malt Powder – This ingredient is very helpful in giving your breads better lift in the oven. It also helps with flavor and browning. I keep it in the fridge and it lasts a very long time. Some bread flours may already have malt added to them, so check your ingredient label.
Tips and Tricks
Oven Proof Setting
Whenever the dough is rising, it needs to be in a warm place (about 85 degrees). I find that using my oven proof setting is perfect. Usually, I will turn it on for the first hour or two of the rise, and then turn it off, but leave the oven door closed to hold in the warmth. You can also try just keeping the oven light on.
There are a few ways to obtain your sourdough starter. You can ask a friend who keeps a starter for a 1/4 cup or so of theirs, you can buy it online, or you can try to make your own.
When your starter is active and bubbly, you know it’s ready to use. If it has doubled in size since feeding, it’s ready. It will also float on top of the water when you are making your dough.
Bread Flour Versus All-Purpose Flour
I always use bread flour when making sourdough. It has a higher protein content, which will help with gluten formation. This results in a better texture in your baked bread.
Freezing Sourdough Bread
You can freeze a completely cooled, well-wrapped loaf for up to three months with great results. I like to slice my loaves into thick slices and freeze them so that I can just take one slice out at a time and put it straight into the toaster to thaw and toast.
Possible Timelines – One Day
8am – Dough is mixed together
8:30am – Dough has its first rest
9am – Stretch and Fold #1
10am – Stretch and Fold #2
11am – Stretch and Fold #3 and then bulk rise
4pm – Dough is shaped and placed in loaf pans, then second rise
7pm – Dough is ready to bake
7:30pm – Bread is cooling overnight and ready to slice in the morning
Possible Timelines – Two Days
8am – Dough is mixed together
8:30am – Dough has its first rest
9am – Stretch and Fold #1
10am – Stretch and Fold #2
11am – Stretch and Fold #3 and then bulk rise (4-12 hours)
4pm – Dough is shaped and placed in loaf pans, then covered and placed in the fridge until ready to let rise and bake (1-3 days later)
When ready to bake anytime in the next three days, place the shaped dough in a warm place to rise, then bake as directed.
The dough can also be placed in the fridge anytime during the bulk rise, to resume rising at a more convenient time.
Did you make this recipe?
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #lovelylittlekitchen
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Sourdough Cranberry Bread
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Rise Time: 12 hours
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 13 hours 5 minutes
- Yield: 2 Loaves 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
If you love making bread, this Sourdough Cranberry Bread is a delicious holiday variation. Step-by-step pictures and helpful tips included!
- 650 grams warm water
- 200 grams active bubbly sourdough starter
- 80 grams honey
- 60 grams oil
- 25 grams kosher salt
- 1000 grams bread flour
- 10 grams malt powder (optional, helps with browning)
- 250 grams dried cranberries, roughly chopped
- Use a kitchen scale to measure 650 grams of water into a large bowl. Add 200 grams of active bubbly starter to the water (it should float on the water) and whisk together.
- Add 80 grams honey, 60 grams oil, 25 grams kosher salt, 1000 grams bread flour, 10 grams malt powder, and 250 grams chopped dried cranberries. Whisk together until a shaggy dough forms.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then cover and place in the oven with the light on, or the bread proof setting for 30 minutes.
- Uncover the dough, and do a series of “stretch and folds”, pulling one edge of the dough as high as it will go, and then folding it over the top of the dough and tucking it under. Stretch and fold each “quadrant” of the dough in the bowl, and then cover and return to a warm place. Repeat the “stretch and fold” process two more times, allowing the dough to rest an hour in between each “stretch and fold”.
- After the third “stretch and fold”, let the dough proof for 4-12 hours, covered, in a warm place.
- Scrape the dough out of the bowl and pour it onto a floured work surface. Divide it evenly into two parts (1,140 grams each). If you want to make mini loaves as well, divide one half into four smaller pieces (280 grams each).
- Press the dough sections into a rectangle shape (don’t use a rolling pin), then fold the edges toward the center and roll into a log shape. Transfer the dough to a surface without flour, and tighten the shape of the loaf by pressing the dough against the counter as you pull it toward you. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Place the shaped dough into two greased, standard-sized loaf pans (10.5 by 5 inches), or one standard size loaf pan and four mini loaf pans (6.75 by 3.75 inches). Cover and let rise until the dough is about an inch over the top of the loaf pan, about 2-6 hours. Be patient!
- Move the oven rack to the center or lower third so the top of the loaf won’t brown too much, and then preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Bake the standard-sized loaves at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Bake the mini loaves at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, brush the tops with butter, and then turn them out onto a cooling rack.
- Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife. We find it is easier to cut when the loaf is turned onto its side.
- Depending on the humidity in your climate, this bread will stay fresh for 2-3 days. It can be sliced, frozen, and then toasted with delicious results! You can also freeze a whole loaf, cooled completely, and wrapped airtight, for up to 3 months.
- Serving Size: 1/12 of a loaf
- Calories: 231
- Sugar: 11g
- Sodium: 407mg
- Fat: 3.4g
- Saturated Fat: 0.3g
- Unsaturated Fat: 2.7g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 45g
- Fiber: 1.8g
- Protein: 5.5g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: sourdough cranberry bread, sourdough bread, cranberry bread, Christmas bread
What a WONDERFUL recipe…..followed it exactly as written….perfect!!
Split the dough in half = one 9×5 plus 4 minis….
Will be a regular….pecans are going in the next batch 🙂
Thank you so much for letting me know! So glad you love it too!
First of all, thank you for this recipe!!! This is such a forgiving dough: I made it with a starter that was decreasing from its high peak on December 10, and baked it the next day. I did half the recipe and it grew so much, I had to divide the dough in two! And it rose more in the waiting time and in the oven.
It turned out so soft, like a cloud! It was a bit difficult to slice beacuse it was like slicing a squishy!
I used half the amount of sweet and it still had a mild sweet flavor. So far, it’s my father’s favourite sourdough bread I have made!
So glad it worked well for you!
What kind of oil are you using?
I use avocado oil.
I tried this recipe and it turned out perfectly. Thank you! I was wondering if anyone has tried this recipe using whole wheat or rye? Im trying to eat less white flour due to a health issue and would love to know if this recipe would turn out with a change in flours.
I have made this several times. I added some orange juice in place of the water and some orange zest and orange marmalade. So good. I trade eggs for sourdough with my sis and she asks for this one on repeat. Makes really good french toast too!
I love the idea of the orange zest! I will have to try that…