By Luke Chavez
The Times 

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread


December 9, 2021

Luke Chavez

While, to some, cranberries are seen only on holiday tables in the form of a jellied sauce out of a can, for me they are a beloved year-round ingredient. The bright red fruit, with its distinctive tart flavor, can add the perfect sparkle to both sweet and savory dishes. The American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, which is delicious either as fresh plump berries or sweet dried fruit, is native to North America. Interestingly, after Wisconsin and Massachusetts, Washington State is one of largest American producers of cranberries, much of it grown up and down the Long Beach peninsula. Driving out to our family cabin on the coast, we pass acres of the fruit growing in bogs along the highway, as well as signs for an Ocean Spray operation, a Washington State University cranberry research extension program, and even a cranberry museum. On top of seafood, I always stock up on jars of local cranberry jam and bags of fresh cranberries for my freezer before heading home. Here the crimson delights are folded into a moist spiced pumpkin bread adding zing to a holiday treat.


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground clove

¼ teaspoon ground mace

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar, plus more for topping

2 large eggs

1 cup canned pure pumpkin (see notes)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zest of one orange, finely grated

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan, then line bottom and long sides with parchment paper.

In medium bowl, whisk flour with dry spices, baking soda, salt, and baking powder until blended and set aside. Use an electric mixer to beat butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually pour in sugar, beating until blended with butter. Next beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the pumpkin, vanilla, and orange zest. Add about half the dry ingredients, beating in slowly, then half of the buttermilk. When smooth, beat in the remaining dry ingredients, and remaining buttermilk, until fully mixed-in. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the cranberries and nuts (if using). Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Set pan in oven on middle rack. Bake bread until golden on top, and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. If using a thermometer, make sure center reads at least 180 degrees. Set pan on rack and cool bread for 15 minutes. Use a knife to loosen bread from pan by gently cutting around edges. Release bread from pan, remove parchment paper, and allow to fully cool on rack. Serve slices at room temperature, or lightly toasted.


If using canned pumpkin make sure it is labeled "pure" pumpkin, not flavored pie filling. You can also roast your own pumpkin or try other winter squash, such as acorn or Hubbard. Cut squash in half, spoon out the seeds, lightly oil and roast cut side up at 350, until tender. Cool, then scoop out squash and mash smooth.

Fresh cranberries can be found in the produce department of most grocery stores this time of year. They can also be found in the freezer section. If you want to substitute with dried sweet cranberries, use ½ cup in place of the 1 cup fresh.

This bread is a lovely sweet to have on hand while hosting holiday guests, perfect as part of a brunch spread, or as an afternoon snack with coffee and tea. Also makes a lovely, home-made gift, or an item for holiday bake sales. Delicious toasted with a smear of sweet butter or cream cheese.



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