The Perfect ‘Night Before Christmas’ Cranberry Bread Recipe

Are you looking for an easy and impressive cranberry bread recipe?

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except for…you, when you’re stirring up this amazing no-knead Christmas cranberry bread!

Think you can’t make those gorgeous artisan loaves you see in high-end bakeries? – Well, this no-knead cranberry recipe is here to ‘prove’ you wrong!

Until we came across the no-knead technique, we would never have considered baking our own bread (too much hassle!) This is the method that changed everything though – and if you’ve never tried, it’s going to convert you too.

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All you need is a little patience and an oven-safe lidded pot, and you can make an easy and delicious, crusty cranberry bread to be proud of. We’ve added orange for some extra seasonal zing, but you could easily leave this out if you wanted.

This recipe also makes a fantastic party appetizer for Christmas.

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Clever cooking utensils I used for this recipe

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Round French Oven

Joseph Joseph Nesting Mixing Bowls Set

Joseph Joseph Nesting Mixing Bowls Set

Joseph Joseph Nest Measuring Cups

Joseph Joseph Nest Measuring Cups


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The original bread recipe comes from Jim Lahey’s Sullivan St. Bakery and we’ve given it a festive twist with fragrant orange as well as cranberries. It’s crispy and crusty on the outside, then studded with the soft and juicy cranberries inside. It’s about as festive as a Christmas wreath on your front door. A warm buttered slice with a mug of hot chocolate will truly make your Christmas day!

Don’t miss our most popular article for the holidays: 37 Delicious and Easy Make-Ahead Christmas Appetizers

So why is this the perfect ‘night before Christmas’ cranberry bread? The secret to this awesome creation is that you prep the dough the night before – don’t worry though, it takes all of five minutes. – The next day, you’ll wake up to a stocking full of goodies from Santa Claus, and a bread dough that’s ready to go.

The mixture of a soft bread with a crispy crust is the perfect tasty combo, and the orange and cranberry flavors will make your home smell heavenly whilst it’s baking (the only thing that comes close is cookies or a homemade gingerbread house.

The full recipe follows at the bottom of the page, but here are our tips for making this.

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The ingredients are simple. All you need for the loaf is all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, and warm water.

To give it a festive flavor, we added the orange zest and cranberry, but the beauty of this recipe is that you can add just about anything to it, so feel free to experiment with your own creations.

You thoroughly mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the water to form it into a dough. cranberry-and-orange-bread-55

The dough will be very, very wet and sticky. We used a silicone spatula to scrape it all down from the sides to make sure it came together.

The reason the dough is so wet is that when it’s baked, the moisture creates steam that will produce the incredible crust you see. Normally, you’d need to put a tray of water into the oven to get this kind of steam-baked crust, but in this recipe, the wet dough does it for you.

Another benefit of having such a wet dough is that the dried cranberries soak in a lot of moisture, giving a fantastic fruity texture in the finished loaf.

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Once the dough comes together and is thoroughly mixed, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a cloth and leave to rest at room temperature. That’s it, there’s no need to knead or use any fancy dough hooks or mixing machines.

You can leave your dough in a cupboard if you don’t have a lot of worktop space. Don’t worry if your room or cupboard is slightly warmer than room temperature. Time-wise, we have left the mix for up to 24 hours before baking. we haven’t noticed a difference between 18 and 24 hours, so do whatever works for you.

The following day, after the dough has rested, it will have doubled in size and will have small air bubbles all over the surface. It will still be incredibly wet.

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Use a spatula to bring the wet dough out onto a piece of floured baking parchment paper, it will stick to the sides of the bowl (a lot!) so just scrape it down with a silicone tool, and turn it out of the bowl onto your surface. Then you shape into a ball with your hands and leave to rest for another 30 mins.

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While the dough is resting, heat your oven, putting the lidded pot in at the same time to heat up.

For this recipe, we used a 7-1/4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven, but you could use any heavy-lidded oven-safe pot. If you use a smaller pot, your bread will come out taller, so it just depends on your preference.

The key thing is that you need to use a pot that has a lidded seal which will create the steam the bread needs to form a bakery-style crust. If there are air-holes in the lid for steam to escape (as some pots do), then your bread will not form a crust.

After the pot has pre-heated, remove it from the oven, and carefully lift the parchment paper containing the bread down into the pot. – Remember to check that whatever paper you use is suitable to withstand the oven temperature.

If you don’t have parchment paper, then you can place the dough straight into the pot afterward. However, it’s easier to use parchment paper, as the dough is so wet. Whatever you choose, be careful lifting the bread into the lidded pot as it will be incredibly hot by now. Then you quickly replace the lid and put the whole thing into the oven.

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Bake for 30 mins, after which, it’s time to remove the lid so that the bread can develop a nice brown color. This should take about another 15 minutes. Once the total time is up, remove the bread from the oven and leave on a rack to cool. Then simply slice and enjoy. You can serve the bread alone or with some butter or honey.

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Cranberry no-knead bread recipe with orange zest

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 whole oranges, zested
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1.5 cups warm water
  1. Mix the flour, salt, instant yeast, orange zest and cranberries in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add warm water and stir with a plastic spatula, scraping the mixture down from the sides until it all comes together in a wet, messy dough.
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a cloth, and leave to rest at room temperature (or in a warm cupboard) for 18-24 hours.
  4. After the dough has rested, it will have doubled in size with small bubbles all over the surface. Flour a piece of baking paper large enough for the dough, and scrape the mixture onto it (it will still be very wet).
  5. Nudge and shape the dough mixture into a ball shape, there is no need to knead the bread. Cover with a cloth or another piece of baking paper and leave to rest for another 30 minutes.
  6. Whilst the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 450f and place a lidded pot inside to heat up.
  7. After half an hour, carefully remove the pot from the oven, remove the lid and lower the baking paper and dough into the pot. Replace the lid and bake for 30 minutes.
  8. After 30 minutes has elapsed, remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes until the bread is a warm brown color.
  9. Remove the pot from the oven, and leave the loaf to cool on a rack.  Slice when cool.

The cooking time given does not allow for the overnight resting.

Are you cooking up a storm for Christmas? If so then you’ll definitely appreciate our post on the best Make-ahead Christmas appetizers, it’s full of yummy ideas that will help you get prepped early.

Want to shop all our Christmas picks in one place? Check out our dedicated shopping page, full of all our best finds from the interwebs!

We also have ideas for show-stopping Christmas dessert ideas if you’re looking to go all out for the holidays.

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Are you looking for an easy and impressive idea for a Christmas bake recipe? Make your kitchen smell like Christmas with this awesomely simple, no-knead orange and cranberry dutch oven bread is perfect for beginners and more experienced cooks. No knead dutch oven bread recipes are the best way to get into making bread and this festive twist is perfect for the time of year.


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