Last fall, my sister moved into an apartment close to the city in Pittsburgh, and it didn’t take long for her to locate the neighborhood bakery. The day that I helped her do some cleaning, she gave me an assortment of cupcakes as a thank you. They were ah-mazing! Since then, she has showed up to our house and family functions with different items from the bakery, and one of my absolute favorites is their cranberry orange bread. It’s super soft, has a great orange flavor and is studded with dried cranberries. The very first time we tried it, my Chief Culinary Consultant told me I had to figure out how to make it at home. Um, that was last fall. Oops! Better late than never, right?!
The best thing about this bread is that it really isn’t much of a bread at all, except that it’s baked in a loaf pan. Rather, it has the consistency of a crumb cake or pound cake; it’s incredibly moist and dense and tastes so buttery. When I thought about how I wanted to tackle the bread, I immediately thought of adapting my favorite New York-Style Crumb Cake recipe. I doubled the recipe, baked it in a loaf pan, omitted the crumb topping and adding orange zest and dried cranberries to the batter.
I tried a couple of different iterations before settling on this one, and I think it comes quite close to the original, although my husband claims that mine is better, so… that’s good! I think this would be a fabulous loaf to have on hand for the holidays or to give as gifts. I think it would freeze well, but be forewarned that you won’t be able to stop nibbling on it once you start!
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8x4-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and line the pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over the sides.
Place the dried cranberries in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cover and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Drain the cranberries and pat dry with paper towels.
In the bowl of standing mixer, combine the sugar with the orange zest. Using your fingers, work the zest into the sugar until all of the sugar is evenly moistened.
Add the flour, baking soda and salt to the bowl and mix on low speed to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, add the butter one piece at a time. Continue beating until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, yolks, vanilla and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
In a small bowl toss the dried cranberries with the flour until they are evenly coated. Fold the cranberries into the batter.
Transfer batter to baking pan; using a rubber spatula, spread the batter into even layer. Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from the loaf pan by lifting parchment overhang. Leftovers should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.