Cranberry Orange Yogurt Pecan Bread

I have been making cranberry quick bread every fall and winter for as long as I can remember. The first time I made it, I followed an excellent recipe in Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, which was my bread bible for over a decade. But eventually, what seemed perfect to begin with began to beg for an update.

I felt the bread needed a little tanginess, a little additional tenderness, and a more pronounced orange flavor. The addition of yogurt added both tanginess and tenderness. But no matter how much orange zest and juice I added to the formula, it still didn’t capture the essence of a fresh, juicy orange. Reluctantly, I gave up, thinking the quest was failed and over. I actually stopped making cranberry bread, much to the bewilderment of MauiJim who loves it with a passion.

Then, lo and behold, a product was introduced into the world called Boyajian Orange Oil – Pure – 5 Oz (plus pure lemon oil and pure lime oil). What a striking difference it makes in this bread and in everything to which I add it. It doesn’t get more orange than this.

You may have to call around in your area to see who carries it. I typically find it in the baking aisle of upscale markets. It is worth going out of your way to obtain a bottle of this magical elixir. And although you will be SHOCKED by the price, gulp and pay it. Pure flavoring oils are used in much smaller amounts than extracts, so a 5-ounce bottle will likely last you for years.

I like making this bread in small loaf pans so that we can eat one right away and freeze a couple for later, or give as gifts. Wondrously, the bread is actually better in all ways the day after it is baked. It is a festive and welcome accompaniment to the holiday festivities that begin this week with Thanksgiving. Treat yourself!

Cranberry Orange Yogurt Pecan Bread

This cranberry bread is especially tender because of the softening effect the yogurt has on the gluten in the flour, and it has an appealing acid tang as well. This loaf is as appropriate for breakfast as for afternoon tea, especially during the holiday season.

vegetable oil spray

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

¾ cup plain nonfat yogurt

¾ cup fresh orange juice

½ cup unsalted butter, cool room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, cool room temperature

½ teaspoon orange oil or 1 teaspoon orange extract

finely grated zest of 1 large orange (2-3 tablespoons)

1 cup fresh cranberries, each cut in half

1 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

1.Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven with plenty of room above it and preheat the oven to 350°.

2.Coat an 8½- x 4½- x 2½-inch (6-cup capacity) loaf pan (or three 2-cup capacity loaf pans) with vegetable spray, and then a light layer of flour, tapping out any excess flour that does not cling.(Or simply spray with oil and flour baking spray.)

3.In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Reserve.

4.In another mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt and orange juice. Reserve.

5.Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with sugar until pale and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.

6.Add the eggs gradually, beating continuously to incorporate. Then add the orange oil and zest and mix briefly to incorporate.

7.Using the slowest speed of the mixer, add the flour mixture in three increments, alternating with the addition of 2 increments of the yogurt-orange juice mixture. The last addition should be the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients by folding together with a large spatula.

8.While folding, add the reserved cranberries and pecans, and incorporate gently and quickly. The batter should be well combined, but do not over mix or the bread will not be tender.

9.Spoon the batter immediately into the prepared pan, filling no more than three fourths full, level the top with a flexible spatula, set in the center of a preheated 350° oven, and bake for about 55-65 minutes. (Smaller loaves require about 40-45 minutes of baking.) The internal temperature of the loaf when tested at the center with a thin instant-read thermometer should read 180° when done. The traditional wooden skewer probe recommended so often as a test for doneness will still be a bit sticky at this point. Over baking this bread makes it dry.

10.Remove from the oven, let settle in the pan for 10 minutes, and then gently turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Do Ahead If well-wrapped to prevent moisture loss, this bread will keep at room temperature for a day or two; or longer in the freezer. It actually improves in texture and taste after a day or so or proper storage.

Makes one medium loaf; about sixteen 1/2-inch slices.

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  1. Penny Wolf says

    I made this into muffins and used up some leftover walnuts and almonds instead of pecans. I really enjoy the light sweetness of this recipe. While dried cranberries would work, I think I prefer the cut fresh ones. They add a moistness and being baked seems to calm the berry to a slight tartness.

    I also like the combo of lime with strawberry, or lemon and blueberry as well as orange with cranberry.
    Poor grapefruit….Grapefruit and pineapple! All wonderful pick me ups for any winter month.

  2. Chilli says

    Hello! Just saw this extremely tempting recipe-I love it; I can (just) taste the sweet and tart cranberries, the moist rich crumb of the loaf, the tantalizing crunch of the pecans… But I want to bake this for someone who is extremely diet conscious and I want to ask if it is possible to replace the butter quotient with the yoghurt. Will it work?

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Chilli, unfortunately that won’t work in this recipe. Beating the butter and sugar together creates air pockets that contribute to the lightness of the bread.You might want to take a look at Cooking Light magazine. Their recipes are very low in fat. I actually wrote for them for years. All the best…Susan

  3. Jenna says

    Hey! Thanks for the recipe. I made it the other day and the flavours are delicious… I only substituted a bit of Grand Marnier instead of Orange Oil.

    The only problem I had, however, was that it was extremely extremely crumbly, and didn’t slice well. Has this happened to you before?

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      hi Jenna. The bread is quite moist (which I love), but I don’t recall it being particularly crumbly. Did you try cutting it with a serrated knife?

  4. MN Tigger (aka Sandy) says

    Family loved this bread which turned out just like you said….tender and moist. Thinking it is going to be our Christmas tradition.

  5. Maris says

    i want to give these as gifts, i plan to bake them the day before. how to store? do i wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate? will they turn hard?


    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Maris, for just a day or two, wrap the loaves well in a double layer of plastic wrap and store at room temperature. For somewhat longer storage, refrigerate. For even longer storage, add a layer of foil and freeze. This tea bread stays quite moist for days. Happy baking…Susan

  6. says

    A georgous, festive & ooh so good looking tasty bread!

    .-= Sophie´s last blog ..Chicken with a cranberry, port & orange sauce, served with sugared braised Belgian endives =-.

  7. Sunshine says

    Coming here, yet again, to make a modified version (more hearty for breakfast) of this.

    I like the idea of using a strawberry puree and maybe adding the lime juice to that. That way, the liquid proportions will be the same, but I’ll still get the strawberry lime flavor. Next strawberry season I plan on dehydrating some strawberries to try in this recipe. I think, though, that I’ll try this soon whether I have the dried strawberries or not.

    Thanks for your suggestions!

    • sms bradley says

      Yes, definitely, Irene. Greek yogurt is substantially thinker than regular yogurt, however, so to duplicate the texture of the original recipe, you might want to thin it a bit with milk. Happy holiday baking! :-)

      • Sunshine says

        I wanted to add that I *always* use Greek yogurt and don’t bother with changing the consistency. I’ve never even tried it with regular yogurt.

        • sms bradley says

          Sure, makes sense. The difference in this type of recipe would be minimal. Would you believe I only discovered Greek yogurt rather recently? Now I always have it in the frig. Heaven!

  8. Sunshine says

    I have made this bread several (at least 4-5) times since seeing this recipe and it is a HUGE hit. My girlfriend loves orange cranberry muffins and this is her favorite recipe. To the point that she bought me orange oil for Xmas so I could make this recipe the “right way.”

    I am right now making a strawberry lime version and the batter is to die for! I used a yogurt, lime, simple sugar mix to equal the 1.5 cups of the above recipe. Simply heaven. I can’t wait to actually eat it.

    • sms bradley says

      Sunshine, thank you so much for sharing your experience with this wonderful quick bread! I LOVE that you are riffing on the basic formula. Strawberry and lime sounds like a delicious combination. Are you using fresh or dried strawberries? Are you using the lime oil as well? It’s dynamite! I’m practically addicted to dried Montmorency cherries right now. You’ve got me jazzed, so I’m going to try a cherry and lime version later today. Yum!

      • Sunshine says

        I’m just coming back to this post, because, well, I’m making these again this weekend!

        Unfortunately, the strawberry lime didn’t turn out well. They were entirely too moist. I used regular strawberries, so I imagine that dried would work really well. It was an amazing taste combo, so I haven’t given up hope, but I also haven’t been inclined to try them again. I bet if I dialed back the yogurt or maybe lime juice, it would work.

        Also, I do have lime oil, but I can’t remember if I used it or not. More than likely, since I’ll take any excuse to use my oils (orange, lemon, and lime) in recipes.

        • sms bradley says

          The strawberry and lime combo does sound fantastic, so I hope you will keep experimenting with it until it works. Cooked fresh strawberries are a problem as they are about 95% water. I like your idea to try dried strawberries. Or how about pureeing some strawberries and then using that puree while adjusting the yogurt measurement down in the same amount?I have seen strawberry cupcakes made in this manner although I have yet to try it. Good luck!

  9. Radar says

    Just sampled the cranberry orange pecan bread-used dried cranberries-am so very happy with this bread-my taste buds are all excited! May not want to share this recipe or this bread. Thanx Judy

    • smsb says

      Radar, thank you! I’m so glad you love this quick bread as much as I do. It’s hard to stop eating it, right? It’s Christmas though, so you must bake and share. :-)

  10. smsb says

    Alicia, I’m so glad you liked this bread. The “Yummy Bread” is a good name for it. I’ve made many versions of this over the years and when I finally added yogurt, bingo! Now it is so moist and flavorful. If your husband is like mine, you may have to keep a couple of loaves in the freezer for craving emergencies. :-)

  11. Alicia says

    I just wanted to let you know that I made this bread this past weekend and it was delicious. My husband (who sneered at the recipe. “cranberries? eeeww!”) calls it the yummy bread. He has asked me to make it again already. I guess I need to stock up on some cranberries. :) Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

  12. smsb says

    Annie, thank you! You can definitely use dried cranberries here, although the effect will be quite different, i.e. the cranberries will be chewy and sweet/tart rather than moist and tart. In other words, more like a raisin with a cranberry flavor. :-)

  13. says

    This looks delicious. I have been looking for a recipe for orange cranberry muffins for a while now. I think this may just do it. Have you used dried cranberries instead? I am wondering how it would come out?


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