Grandma Mackay's Cranberry Bread Recipe

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom, but not the sides, of two small loaf pans.

Step 2

In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt). Blend very well.

Step 3

Mix together the orange juice, orange peel, melted shortening and beaten egg. Mix only enough to blend uniformly. Mix in the cranberries and the nuts; stir gently. Pour the mixture into the loaf pans. Push it to the corners, leaving the center slightly hollow.

Step 4

Bake about an hour at 350 degrees F. The loaves are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting. Do not try to serve warm.

NOTES: A festive cranberry-orange nut-bread -- My grandmother MacKay clipped this recipe from the 1951 edition of the Pillsbury Bake-Off competition recipes, and we've made it a family tradition ever since. From time to time my mother and I have both tried to improve on the recipe, but it appears that the recipe is already perfect; every variation we have ever tried has been disappointing by comparison.

When I was a boy, before the invention of the food processor, making this bread required cutting the cranberries in half by hand, with a knife, and the person who brought 4 loaves of cranberry bread to the family Thanksgiving meal was more welcome than the person who brought the turkey. Now, between Baker's Secret loaf pans and Cuisinart slicer blades, you can knock out 8 perfect loaves of the stuff while watching one episode of Sesame Street. My grandmother still cuts each cranberry in half with a paring knife, and hers still tastes better than mine. Makes: 2 small loaves.

* It takes practice to know when to stop mixing the dough. If you mix too much, the bread gets a chewy texture to it, whereas it should have a very crumbly consistency, like a muffin or cornbread.

* It really makes a difference in the texture of this bread to use a shortening that is solid at room temperature, like Crisco. It really makes a difference in the flavor to use fresh orange-peel and not powdered. I prefer walnuts to pecans.

* It might seem sensible to try to use the same orange for the peel and the juice, but it is really more trouble than it is worth to try to peel a juiced orange or juice a peeled orange. I usually use two oranges and eat the one that I took the peel from.

* This bread keeps well in the freezer. Specifically, it keeps from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It also survives quite well being mailed by parcel post from Indiana to Maryland.

Things You'll Need

  • 2c Flour, all-purpose
  • 1c Sugar, granulated
  • 1 1/2t Baking powder
  • 1/2t Baking soda
  • 1t Salt
  • 3/4c Orange juice (juice of one large orange)
  • 2T Shortening
  • 1T Orange peel, grated (one large orange)
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1c Cranberries, halved or chopped
  • 1c Walnuts or pecans, chopped

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