Even some accomplished bakers are afraid of yeast, but when you follow directions, working with yeast can actually be very forgiving. Mistakes can be made when using old yeast, water that's too hot or too cold, and not allowing the bread to rise in a warm place. That's about it! Using fresh ingredients, working in a warm room, and using a thermometer can prevent failure. Even the thermometer can be optional. What you're looking for is water that feels warm to the touch, but not hot.
The orange zest and juice in the dough makes this taste perky, not bread-y and heavy. I think we could all use that this time of year!
My all-time favorite way to have this is toasted with butter. When this bread is toasted it gets kind of flaky and buttery like a pastry. It's soft and sort of squishy like a roll when not toasted. Either is good! Maybe have one of each...
Orange Cranberry Swirl Bread
Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf
Based on Dorie's recipe
2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 1/4 cup warm to the touch heavy whipping cream or whole milk (I used cream)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon orange juice
Pinch of nutmeg
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
In a small bowl, stir together yeast, pinch of sugar, and cream. Let rest for 5 minutes.
In a large stand mixer bowl or regular bowl using paddle attachment, cream together butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Add egg, orange zest, juice, and nutmeg. Stir to combine thoroughly for about 2 minutes on low. Add yeast mixture and stir for 3 more minutes until evenly distributed.
With mixer turned off, add 2 3/4 cups flour and stir until combined. Now, switch to the dough hook attachment, add 1 more cup of flour and stir again. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes until dough is soft, satiny, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If dough is very sticky, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until dough is smooth but still quite soft.
Butter a large bowl and turn dough into it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or clean towel and allow to raise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours. The dough should have doubled in volume and when poked with your finger, the dimple should remain.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom for the filling. Butter a 9x5-inch bread pan.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle about 9x18 inches, sprinkling with flour to prevent sticking if necessary. The short side should be about the length of your bread pan or a little longer.
Using your fingers, smear the surface with your softened butter and sprinkle with your cinnamon filling. Cover with the dried cranberries. Starting on one of the shorter edges, roll up the dough into a tight roll and pinch the edges closed.
Tuck the ends under and shape into an even loaf. Place in buttered pan and cover with a clean towel. Let rise for about 45 minutes or until bread rises above edge of pan.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with a rack center in middle.
Brush surface of bread with melted butter and bake for 20 minutes. Cover loosely with foil to prevent excessive browning and bake another 25 minutes. Bread is done when tapping on the bottom of pan produces a hollow sound.
Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, remove from pan and allow to fully cool on drying rack.