The Cranberry Loaf - a Texas French Bread tradition

Dear Friends,

One of my favorites of the holiday treats we bake at this time of year is our cranberry walnut bread. I asked Mom about how we had started making it and she couldn't remember what year it had been or whose recipe we'd used. Which is not all that surprising I suppose, as she looked through her scrapbook and found the flyer below from back when we only had two shops.

Now if memory serves, we opened our third Texas French Bread in a narrow shotgun hallway of a space in a building on the west side of Congress Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets around 1984-5. This means we were already making cranberry bread during the holidays in the very earliest days of the business (and at the bargain price of $9.75 - ah, the good old days).

And it was in one of those early years that we realized these loaves were ideal for mailing long distances to loved ones in other cities. So once a year, we have a packing party where we box up big piles of them, tie them in ribbons, jot out a hand written note, and rush them to the post office, usually arriving at the post office at the very last minute with huge stack.

(By the way, if you'd like us to send one for you this year, jump on our online store here, and fill out the short form. We're mailing this year's group next Monday.)

The bread itself is made using only fresh crop cranberries - that's why we only have it at this time of year. We mix the batter with it's classic yellow orange color (a result of large handfuls of orange zest) on a mixer, but we have to fold in the cranberries and walnuts by hand at the end, or it they will breakdown and discolor the batch. Then while the loaves are still warm from the oven, we remove them from their pans and dip each one in a large bowl of glaze made from equal parts sugar and orange juice.

Anyway, they're really quite delicious. Their flavor takes me back to all of the years I spent working long hours in the bakery right up until Christmas Eve - when suddenly, after weeks of going around the clock, we all get to put down our tools, dust off the flour, stop and take a breath.

Most years, if the weather was pretty, I would decompress on Christmas morning by taking a long run, winding my way through the quiet beauty of UT's empty off-session campus, down to Town Lake (sorry Ladybird - it will always be Town lake to me), usually with a dog or two in tow. I'd soak up the sense of peace and tranquility, refreshing my body, which had been so neglected over the previous weeks while I worked almost around the clock. And then, once back at home, I'd have a slice of cranberry bread.

I'm wishing all of you a peaceful holiday season this year. If you can make it by the bakery, please be sure and say hello. We love seeing everyone at this time of year, and we've usually got something sweet that will help winnow down your gift list.

bon appetit,


ps - Other holiday offerings include our famous cookie tins, featuring sets of hand-made and hand-decorated cookies, as well as an assortment of cakes, pies and breads. You can order them online in advance or just stop by the shop to peruse our offerings.