Cranberries often make it onto the Thanksgiving table as a cylindrical gelatinous tube that some people call "sauce." Others simmer them whole and serve them while they're still recognizable, which is an improvement but not particularly original.
If you want to do something different with the sturdy, tart berries this year incorporate them into homemade bread that'll be served with a tangy cranberry butter.
This recipe makes two regular-sized loaves or four mini-loaves.
Step 1: Prepare the Berries
Sort a 12-ounce bag of fresh whole cranberries and remove any remaining stems. Rinse them in a colander and shake off excess water.
Step 2: Cook the Berries
Place the drained berries into a medium saucepan with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Cook on medium heat until the berries are soft, shrunken and shriveled and the juices have gelled slightly.
Step 3: Strain the Cranberries
Press the cooked cranberries through the holes of a fine strainer or steaming insert. Be sure to preserve both the liquid that is squeezed through and the pulpy fruit in the strainer.
Step 4: Layer the Dough Ingredients
In the basket of a bread machine (one capable of making 2-lb loaves), layer ingredients in the following order:
-1/2 c buttermilk
-2 tbsp shortening
-1 large egg, beaten
-2 tbsp granulated sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp ginger
-4 1/2 c bread flour
-2 tsp bread machine yeast
Step 5: Start Kneading
Set the bread machine to its dough-only cycle and start it. Allow the ingredients to combine until they form a very loose ball and then add in the softened cooked cranberries. You can add it during a rest phase or after the dough has been needing a while. Just add it early during the cycle so that you can add water or additional flour as needed to form a slightly tacky dough that cleans the sides of the container.
You may need to use a spoon to push the cranberries into the dough as it mixes - the dough will try to resist taking in solids.
Step 6: Transfer and Proof
Transfer the dough to a very large oiled bowl and turn it to coat the top with oil.
Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for two hours in a draft-free spot (I use a cold oven).
Step 7: Punch Down the Dough
When the dough has risen all it can you will be able to press two fingers into it and it will not bounce back. It should have approximately doubled in size.
At that stage, turn the dough out onto a floured board and divide it into half or quarters (half for regular loaves and quarters for mini-loaves).
Step 8: Shape Into Loaves
Press each dough ball into a square and then shape into a loaf that'll fit the length of your pan.
Step 9: Place in Pans
Spray the inside of your loaf pans with spray oil or rub them with vegetable oil.
Place the prepared loaves inside the pans and spray the tops with more oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. The dough will almost double again.
Step 10: Bake
Set the pans on top of a baking sheet and cook the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes (for regular-sized loaves -- smaller loaves may need less or more time depending on the shape and type of pan), rotating the sheet 180 degrees about halfway through.
Remove bread from pans to cool on wire racks for at least one hour.
Step 11: Make the Cranberry Butter
Make a compound butter by mixing in one part softened butter to each part leftover cranberry (from the bowl catching what you pushed through the strainer).
Spread onto toasted cranberry bread and serve.