I first read the book Cranberry Thanksgiving when I was about 5 years old. Being an aspiring little baker and a cranberry lover at an early age, it quickly became one of my favorite books. For those of you who don’t know the story, the Cranberry series is set on a cranberry bog in New England and features a little girl, Maggie, who lives with her old-fashioned grandmother, named Grandmother (oddly enough). Mr. Whiskers, Maggie’s good friend and an ex-sea captain, lives close by near the beach and is always being scolded by Grandmother for his disheveled appearance and unrefined manners although he’s actually very warm-hearted. The books are short, sweet, and funny, with a story for every occasion. Cranberry Christmas, Cranberry Birthday, and Cranberry Easter are some favorites of mine. In all honesty though, Cranberry Thanksgiving remains my very favorite.
In the book, Grandmother has a top-secret recipe for cranberry bread that she keeps hidden behind a brick in the fireplace. As a little girl I was enthralled with the idea of having a special recipe that no one could know about, and you can imagine my delight when I discovered the secret recipe for Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread featured on the last page of the book! To my five-year-old mind it was like uncovering the lost city of Atlantis.
Almost every November since then, I’ve pulled out our worn copy of Cranberry Thanksgiving and flipped to the flour-stained recipe at the back. My mom and I, and sometimes my brother and dad, would set ourselves up with knives and cutting boards and chop up cupfuls of cranberries to bake into a loaf or two of the famous cranberry bread. I can remember the year I was finally allowed to use a sharp knife, the year I baked the bread all by myself from start to finish, and the year I baked it in a new kitchen after moving to Washington. I’ve made it with the suggested mixture of cranberries and golden raisins, with cranberries and regular raisins, with cranberries and nuts, and my personal favorite, with all 3 cups of nothing but cranberries. It still tastes the same every year, and fills the kitchen with the familiar smell of sweet-tart cranberries and freshly grated orange zest. There’s nothing like a warm piece of cranberry bread with a cup of tea in the morning, and it would also be a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table! Here comes the recipe…you should feel very honored because after all, it’s not top-secret for nothing. 🙂
Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp grated orange zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 3 large oranges)
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped
1 1/2 cups golden raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray a 9x5x3″ loaf pan. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until crumbly using a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands. Add in the egg, orange zest, and orange juice, mixing until just combined. Fold in the cranberries and raisins.
Spread the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.
(Recipe adapted from the book Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin)