I baked two loaves of Cranberry Cinnamon Swirl Bread, one for each of my favorite ways to enjoy breakfast.

Three slices of fluffy Cranberry Cinnamon Swirl Bread on a plate with cinnamon sticks

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The first is in quiet, seated at a bar stool in my kitchen, alone except for my piping hot cup of coffee (or French Hot Chocolate).

It’s peaceful, not lonely, and I am absolutely content for this private moment with a giant, fluffy slice of cranberry cinnamon swirl bread.

My other favorite way to enjoy breakfast is crowded at a table with friends, passing plates (of Coffee Cake Muffins and Stuffed French Toast) from person to person, and reaching over to sneak just one more slice of cranberry cinnamon swirl bread from the plate.

Both occasions are special to me for their own unique reasons and this sweet and fluffy bread is fitting for both.

A loaf of swirled Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Bread cut in slices on a piece of parchment paper

How to Make Cranberry Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Whether enjoyed in a moment of solitude or at a chaotic holiday brunch, cinnamon swirl bread with cranberries is anything and everything I could hope for in a breakfast when the air is crisp and the excitement of the holidays is buzzing.

Like these Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, this bread is wonderfully soft with a marvelously gooey filling, but it is far less heavy.


The Ingredients

  • Flour. Adapted from my Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Hazelnuts, this recipe uses a similar dough made from a blend of all-purpose and white whole wheat flour.
  • Vital Wheat Gluten. My secret ingredient for making bread with whole wheat flour that’s light, soft, and fluffy (also my trick to the BEST Whole Wheat Pizza Dough).
  • Yeast. Instant yeast that gets mixed right in with the other ingredients makes prep easy and fuss-free.
  • Butter + Egg. Enrich the dough with fat and flavor—making it soft and unbelievably tender.
  • Buttermilk. Lends additional fat and moisture to the dough and offers a subtle tang.
  • Cranberries. Studded throughout the filling, fresh cranberries add moisture and tartness to the bread that contrasts the sweet filling beautifully.
  • Orange. Adds subtle orange flavor and aroma to the bread dough and pairs perfectly with cranberry (as in my Cranberry Orange Sauce).
  • Brown Sugar + Cinnamon. Provides the perfect gooey, sinfully sweet filling that oozes plentifully between the layers of soft dough.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Fresh Cranberries and Orange

The Directions

  1. Stir together the dry ingredients, then mix in the butter, egg, and orange zest.
  2. Warm the buttermilk and orange juice and mix into the dough.
  3. Knead the dough until it is soft, pliable, and slightly tacky.
  4. Let the dough rise until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Make filling and prep the cranberries. Set aside.
  6. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, roll into a rectangle, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with filling and cranberries.
  7. Roll up the dough, like a cinnamon roll (pinching the seam closed), then transfer to a greased 8×4 inch loaf pan. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with the second piece of dough.
  8. Cover loaves and let rise again until nearly doubled in size.
  9. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until the loaves are evenly brown on the top and golden on the sides.
  10. Remove, let cool, then serve. ENJOY!

How to Store Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Swirl Bread

  • To Store. Leftover bread can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • To Freeze. Cover the bread tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze it in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
A loaf of easy Cranberry Cinnamon Swirl Bread and a plate with thick slices arranged on it

Should I ever open a bed and breakfast, cranberry cinnamon swirl bread will be on the menu. Who wants to be my first guest?!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Active Dry Yeast Be Substituted for Instant Yeast?

I have only made this recipe with instant yeast so it would be an experiment. However active dry can typically be swapped for instant yeast in most recipes. To do so, you will want to first activate the yeast with the warm buttermilk and orange juice for several minutes before adding the remaining ingredients to the dough.

Can I Omit the Cranberries from this Cinnamon Swirl Bread?

I have not tried making this filling without the cranberries so I’m not sure what the results would be. The texture and consistency would certainly be different. If you experiment with removing the cranberries, let me know your results.

Why Didn’t My Dough Rise?

Many factors impact the rise of bread dough so it can be tough to pinpoint the culprit without being in the kitchen with you. First, check the age of your yeast. Second, make sure the buttermilk and oranges juice were warmed to the recommended temperature of the yeast’s manufacturer. Last, if your kitchen is on the cool side, you may need to proof your dough longer to get the perfect rise.

Cranberry Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Cranberry Cinnamon Swirl Bread

This easy cranberry cinnamon swirl bread is soft and fluffy with a filling of cranberries, brown sugar, and orange. Perfect for the holidays!

Prep: 35 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 5 hrs 15 mins

Servings: 2 8×4-inch loaves (about 10 slices per loaf)

Ingredients
  

For the Dough:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • 1 packet instant yeast scant 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and at room temperature
  • 1 large egg slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Instructions
 

  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, vital wheat gluten, yeast, and salt. Add the butter, egg, and orange zest.
  • Heat the buttermilk and 1/4 cup orange juice squeezed from the zested orange to the temperature specified by the yeast manufacturer (120 to 130 degrees F for Red Star Platinum). If the buttermilk separates, simply whisk it back together. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, mix on low speed (or mix by hand with a wooden spoon) until the ingredients come together and form a ball.
  • Switch to a dough hook (or turn out onto a lightly floured surface) and mix on medium speed for 8 minutes or knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough is soft, pliable, and slightly tacky but not sticky.
  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. To check dough readiness, gently press the dough with two fingers. If the indent stays, the dough is ready.
  • Prepare the cranberry filling: In a food processor, pulse the whole cranberries until they’re ground and pebbly, but not completely pureed, scraping the machine down once or twice. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set both aside.
  • Lightly oil two 8 x 4-inch loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces (use a kitchen scale if you have one). Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a rectangle that is 5 inches wide by 8 inches long. Brush with half of the melted butter, sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture (it will seem like a lot, but pile it thickly), and scatter half of the cranberries over the top.
  • Working from the short (5-inch) side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough, jelly-roll style, pinching the crease with each rotation to seal in the filling and strengthen the dough’s surface tension. The loaf will spread as you roll, reaching 8 to 9 inches (the length of your loaf pan). Pinch the final seam closed, then lift the loaf and rock it gently back and forth to even it out. Place the loaf in one of the prepared pans. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
  • Mist two pieces of plastic wrap with cooking spray and loosely cover the pans. Let the loaves rise at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, until the dough is nearly doubled in size.
  • Place rack in center of the oven, then preheat to 350 degrees F. Place the loaf pans on a large sheet pan, ensuring that they do not touch. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the sheet pan 180 degrees, then bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaves reach an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. The finished loaves will be brown on the top, golden on the sides, and sound hollow when tapped.
  • Immediately remove the bread from the pans, then let cool for at least 1 hour before serving. Enjoy warm with butter.

Notes

  • MAKE-AHEAD: After shaping the loaves, you can let the loaves rise in the refrigerator overnight, then bake the next morning, Allow the loaves to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
  • TO STORE: Leftover bread can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • TO FREEZE: Cover the bread tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze it in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 20) slicesCalories: 142kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 4gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 14mgPotassium: 63mgFiber: 2gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 94IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 30mgIron: 1mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. This looks super awesome, but I am wondering if there’s a way to create without vital wheat gluten? I would love to make this over the weekend and I do not have that ingredient in my cupboards.

    1. Hi there! You can definitely make this without the vital wheat gluten. Simply reduce the quantity of buttermilk by 2 tablespoons. It will be a bit more dense, as the vital wheat gluten helps to lighten the whole wheat flour, but still absolutely delicious. Another option is to use 100% all-purpose flour, omit the vital wheat gluten, and reduce the quantity of buttermilk by 2 tablespoons. The bread won’t have the benefits of whole wheat, but it will be extra fluffy. The choice is up to you!