I'm Jonathan Stiers (pronounced Styers). Join me as I share my adventures in food, design, entertaining and travel. I hope you enjoy and find some inspiration!

Cranberry Swirl Bread

Cranberry Swirl Bread

A few weeks ago we stumbled across a recipe for a pesto swirl bread. We made it, it was tasty, but on the heavy side. The bread alone was almost a meal, thanks to the pesto. So we got to thinking, what else could we “swirl?”

With Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us, cranberries came to mind. Obviously you’d have to break them down in to a sauce, so that’s exactly what we did. We tried a couple of different recipes, starting with the pesto bread recipe, simply switching out the pesto for cranberries. Then we tried a second one that was very similar, the only difference being the active yeast process. The pesto bread called for adding active dry yeast to warm water and sugar, which is pretty common in bread making but it didn’t work as well as our second option. With our second loaf, we added the yeast directly to the other dry ingredients, then added the wet ingredients separately. Don’t worry, it’s all broken down below. The one thing we did consistently with both recipes was using the trusty stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. It seemed the biggest challenge was finding fresh cranberries! Worst case scenario, I would’ve used frozen, but we couldn’t even find those! Finally, after going to 4 different stores, we finally found fresh cranberries. It’s definitely a good idea to test a couple of recipes, especially when you’re making bread from scratch.

I happen to love red (see my Scarlet Fever Pinterest Board & Holiday Christmas reveal posts), especially with robin’s egg blue. So it seemed like a match made in heaven when I found these farmer’s market baskets from Anthropologie

It all came together beautifully and definitely got me in the mood for the holidays!

It all started with these beauties...



  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active-dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter

Cranberry Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Powdered sugar for dusting


  1. In a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough attatchment, mix the sugar, yeast, salt and 1 cup of the flour (you'll use the other 2 1/2 cups later). If you don't have a stand mixer, you can simply use a large bowl and mix the sugar, yeast, salt and 1 cup of flour, together.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the water, milk and butter, until butter is melted. Let cool until mixture is lukewarm.
  3. Once cooled, add the liquid to dry ingredients in stand mixer and mix on speed 1.
  4. Stir in flour, one cup at a time, until a smooth dough is formed, increasing the speed to 2. 
  5. Mix until dough comes together in a clean ball. Shape dough into a smooth ball, transfer to a lightly greased large bowl. Cover and allow to rise for one hour or doubled in size, usually around 1 hour. (Baker's note: If your dough is too sticky, add more flour, a spoonful at a time. If it's too dry, add a little olive oil)
  6. While you're waiting on your bread to rise, combine cranberries, brown sugar, cornstarch and water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Make sure and cover slightly as your cranberries will start to burst!
  7. Remove from heat and stir in butter and lemon juice; cool.
  8. Punch down the dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface.
  9. Roll in to a 10 x 20-inch rectangle. Spread the cranberry sauce out to 1/2-inch from edges. Starting at one of the shorter sides, tightly roll up dough, pinching edges as you go. With the seam facing down, use a sharp knife and carefully slice completely through the dough, lengthwise down the center, end to end.
  10. Braid dough then carefully transfer to a lightly greased 10-inch loaf pan. It helped to have a second set of hands on this part! (A good visual example of the braiding technique can be found here - Scroll to middle of post)
  11. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 30-40 minutes.
  12. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.
  13. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  14. Dust with powdered sugar and top with fresh cranberries (optional), for a pop of color!

All photos by Jonathan Stiers ©2014 | Adapted from Let's Dish and Baked by Rachel.

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