Cranberry Christmas Bread or Wanna Be Panettone

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Homemade Christmas bread, full of cranberries and baked in a paper pan is reminiscent of store bought panettone, but the dough features whole wheat pastry flour and is prepared in a bread machine.

I was first introduced to panettone the year I lived in France almost twenty years ago. My French family lived in the south of the country and exposed me to all sorts of wonderful Christmas traditions, like the Buche de Noel. The Italian bread called panettone was another.

A few years after I returned to the States, I started seeing it available seasonally in specialty shops. Nowadays even the drugstore sells it. However, the bright yellow packages we’ve purchased have yielded some awful tasting bread. This year, rather than waste our money on those breads, I made a wanna-be panettone.

I hesitate to call my recipe panettone. While this has the fruit and the pretty paper, it does not involve the proofing and variety of candied fruit that is in the real deal. Consider this a delicious, American knock-off.

Please note that my cheater way involves a bread machine and two 4-inch panettone paper molds. But, you can form the bread dough in the traditional way and bake it in a bread pan if you prefer.

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Cranberry Christmas Bread
Prep Time
2 hrs
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 35 mins
A panettone-like sweet bread, this Christmas bread will be a welcome addition to your holiday table. Studded with dried cranberries and scented with lemon, it's a delicious treat.
Course: Bread, Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: christmas bread, panettone
Servings: 8
Calories: 421 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter cubed
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
To make the dough in a bread machine:
  1. Combine the ingredients in the pan of a bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Set the dough cycle and turn it on.
To make the dough in a stand mixer:
  1. Combine the milk, butter, and sugar in a medium-size saucepan and warm slightly over medium heat. Transfer the mixture to the mixer bowl and add the yeast. Stir and allow the yeast to proof for 5 minutes.

  2. Add the egg, flours, lemon zest, and salt. Stir to combine well. Attach the bread hook and knead until a smooth elastic dough is formed. Transfer to a greased bowl and turn the dough ball to coat. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

To make the dough by hand:
  1. Combine the milk, butter, and sugar in a medium-size saucepan and warm slightly over medium heat. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and add the yeast. Stir and allow the yeast to proof for 5 minutes.

  2. Add the egg, flours, lemon zest, and salt. Stir to combine well.

  3. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes to create a smooth, elastic dough, adding more all-purpose flour as necessary. Transfer to a greased bowl and turn the dough ball to coat. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

To form the loaves:
  1. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in two pieces.

  2. Form each piece into a tight ball and place in a paper mold. Cover and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
  3. Lay two 4-inch panettone paper molds on a baking sheet.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 Β°.
  5. Bake the breads for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack before serving.
Recipe Notes

Promptly store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Nutritional values are approximate and based on 1/8 the recipe.

Nutrition Facts
Cranberry Christmas Bread
Amount Per Serving
Calories 421 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 8g50%
Cholesterol 74mg25%
Sodium 425mg18%
Potassium 255mg7%
Carbohydrates 65g22%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 18g20%
Protein 10g20%
Vitamin A 463IU9%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 69mg7%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. I love Panettone and I love Cranberry Bread so I’m going to have to make your bread! I did link my Cranberry Bread which is completely different from yours to your recipe swap. It’s my favorite Christmas recipe and I’ve been making it for over 30 years! I felt that met the criteria for the swap. πŸ™‚ Thank you for hosting this swap and Happy Holidays to you and your family!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Thanks for linking up!

  2. Thanks so much for hosting this recipe swap–I look forward to finding some new favorites! πŸ™‚

  3. Thanks for hosting! I’m linking up a banket tutorial. Banket is an almond paste filled pastry, which I’ve had for Christmas ever since I was a little girl. My mom let me take pictures of her making it last year so I have a tutorial posted.

  4. Thanks for hosting the linky. I stopped over from Big Bear’s Wife. Love the tutorial on pannetone! I linked up my: Gingerbread, Peppermint bark and Earthquake cookies. Hope you and others enjoy!

  5. I shared my cinnamon noodle kugel. Traditionally it has raisins in it but ugh I hate them, so I make it without. It’s so good but so bad for you! I only make it a couple of times a year. Thank you for hosting.

  6. I couldn’t choose just one recipe, so my post includes a few of the recipes I bake at Christmas time!
    I have never heard of a panettone before, but it sure looks and sounds good!
    Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

  7. My Italian in-laws can be truly over the top when it comes to food, but I admit I love their french toast made from panettone.

    I linked up the same thing I did last year, cranberry apple coffee ring, but your post reminded me of it & I couldn’t help myself! Now I have to decide between it and your panettone. Maybe both?

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Well, mine is definitely not traditional panettone. πŸ˜‰

  8. I always see this really nice bread at my local produce market. It looks yummy. Thanks for the recipe. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather πŸ™‚

  9. Love panettone and would love to try this. But where can one get the paper molds you refer to?

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I bought mine at the Sur La Table store, but you can order them online as well from Amazon and other kitchen stores.

  10. Rebecca says

    My husband’s Italian family always has panettone at the holidays, so I’ve come to love it! Last year, we hosted Christmas for my family, and I wanted to introduce them to that tradition. I searched everywhere, but the only panettone I could find was a really expensive one at a local Italian restaurant. I have no doubt that it was excellent, but not worth $25! Then, I discovered that Panera Bread had it. It was very good, and it was a much more reasonable price. I don’t remember specifically how much it cost, but whatever it was, I was willing to pay it. If you are looking for good panettone, but you don’t have time to make it, that’s a good place to get some!

  11. Oh my goodness! So many new “Pins” Thank you for hosting & Merry Christmas!

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