BBA Challenge: Cherry Pecan Celebration Bread

Cut Celebration Loaf

And here comes number eleven!

That’s right, I’m still plugging away at The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge and the next bread up is Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread.  But since Mr. Reinhart gave us the option of choosing different dried fruits and nuts, I decided to celebrate cherry season and use tart dried cherries and pecans in my bread.

Although it is definitely a gorgeous loaf worthy of a celebration, this bread was surprisingly easy to make!  No unusual ingredients for this one, just bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, buttermilk, eggs, butter, water, lemon extract, dried tart cherries, and pecans.

Celebration Bread Ingredients

First, the dry ingredients and wet ingredients (except water) are mixed up separately, then combined in one mixing bowl.

Adding Wet Ingredients to Dry

I stirred everything together with my trusty wooden spoon, then added enough water to make a soft dough.

Mixing the Dough and Adding Water

Ok, perhaps I added a bit too much water.  Don’t panic if this happens, remember that you can always knead in some extra flour during the next step!

Very Wet Dough

Now for the kneading.  I decided to give my mixer a day off, so I kneaded this dough by hand on my board.  A kitchen counter or smooth tabletop also makes a good kneading surface, you don’t need a pastry board to knead bread dough!  But I have one, so I use it.  I sprinkled it with a good amount of flour before scraping the sticky mess of dough out of the bowl, floured up my hands, and got to work!

Wet Dough on Board

It took about eight minutes of kneading by hand, before I ended up with a smooth, pliable, slightly tacky ball of dough.  You really need to make sure that it’s not too stiff at this point, because the nuts and fruit still have to be kneaded in!

Kneaded Dough

I roughly chopped the nuts and cherries before kneading them in.  I think this was the first time I’ve ever kneaded dried fruit and nuts into a bread dough by hand, so I was a little unsure about it.  I just kind of flattened out the dough and dumped the whole mess on there.

Adding Cherries and Nuts

It wasn’t as hard as it seemed.  Just be persistant, and it will get incorporated eventually!

Cherries and Nuts Kneaded In

Now it’s time for bulk fermentation, the stage where you let the yeast do it’s work and let the ball of dough double in bulk.  I cleaned out the mixing bowl, oiled it, and placed the dough inside, rolling it once to coat it with oil.  Now, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in bulk.  If you have a warm house, you will want to check the dough early, because it will rise faster.

Ready to Rise

Here’s my dough about an hour and a half later.  I guess I had some happy yeast!

After Bulk Fermentation

Now it’s time to divide the dough.  For this, I use two important tools:  My bench scraper and my digital scale!

Ready to Divide

Since this is a celebration loaf, it will be shaped into a double braid.  There will be a large three-strand braid on the bottom and a smaller three-strand braid on top.  This means we’ll need six pieces of dough.  Three pieces will be 10 ounces each (for the larger braid) and three pieces will be 4 ounces each (for the smaller braid).    Using a scale makes it simple!

Divided into Six Pieces

Next, the balls of dough need to rolled out into ropes.  The book specifies the lengths you need, so a ruler comes in handy at this stage.  The larger pieces are rolled to about 9 inches long, while the smaller pieces are about 7 inches long.  As you can see, the ropes are thicker in the middle and tapered at the ends.  This technique is what helps to form a nice looking braided loaf that is thicker in the center and tapered at the ends.

Ropes for Braids

And now for the braiding.  Just like for the challah, I started my braid in the middle and worked out to each end.  There are detailed instructions for braiding on page 84 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Ready for Braiding

Halfway Braided

Finished Braid

After you have braided both the large rope and the small ones, you will place the small braid on top of the large one, making sure it is centered.

Large and Small Braids

Celebration Loaf Assembled

Next, brush the entire loaf with an egg wash and let it proof (rise) uncovered at room temperature for about an hour and a half, or until the loaf nearly doubles in size.

Let Proof Uncovered

After Proofing

After it has doubled, the loaf is carefully brushed with a second egg wash.

After Second Egg Wash

Finally, it is baked at 325 degrees  for 50-55 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when it is tapped on the bottom of the loaf.  The internal temperature should be between 185 and 190 degrees.  Kind of looks like a roast bird from this angle, doesn’t it?

Celebration Bread Out of the Oven

Although I accidentally baked mine for about ten minutes too long because I forgot to set the timer for an additional five minutes and then got distracted by twitter for fifteen minutes, I was really pleased with this bread!

Like many of the others participating in this challenge, I’m ready for a break from sweet breads and was kind of dreading making another one.  But this bread was both beautiful and delicious!   And pulling such an amazing loaf of bread from the oven really did fill me with a sense of accomplishment.

I’m glad that I decided to use the tart dried cherries and pecans in this bread, they worked really well together.  One thing I might change if I make this bread again is the fruit/nut ratio.  I think it could have used a little less dried fruit and perhaps a handful of extra nuts.  I think I’ll save the cranberry walnut version for Thanksgiving, it will be perfect for leftover turkey sandwiches!

Interested in making this bread?  The recipe can be found on page 154 of Peter Reinhart’s amazing book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

For those of you who are participating in The BBA Challenge, here are some questions:  How did you like the Celebration Bread?   What type of fruit or nuts did you use?  Did you shape it into the double braid or did you choose a different shape?  Would you make it again?

And remember, if you wrote a blog post about the Celebration Bread, or have photos available online, please leave a comment and share your link!

The Next Bread

Next we will be making English Muffins!  It will be nice to have a break from sweet breads for a little while and I love homemade English Muffins!!  The English Muffins are different from the other breads we’ve made so far because they are ‘baked’ on a griddle, rather than in the oven.  The instructions begin on page 157 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  Good luck and happy baking!

Want to Bake Along With Us?

There are several ways for you to join in the fun!  First of all, you need a copy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  Read the first section of the book carefully, as this will prepare you for the bread recipes in the second section of the book.  Then just jump in and bake some Anadama Bread, which is the first recipe in the book.  But first, please visit The BBA Challenge Page for more details on how to participate in the group!

If you haven’t already, you might want to bookmark the BBA Challenge Page.  From there you can see which breads are coming up soon, find answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit and/or add yourself to our World Map, see the BBA Challenge Blogroll, and check out the continually updated slideshow of BBA Bread photos from our ever-expanding group of bakers!

Celebration Bread from other BBA Challenge members:

  1. Paula - bell'alimento

    Hi Nicole- Beautiful pics & the cherry & walnut combo looks deelish. I really LOVED this bread. Here is the link to my post:

    1:12 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  2. Jeff

    Credit to you for getting it to turn out right. Mine I only ended up with the 3 10 ounce strands but I really did not care for the bread so I was ehh on redoing it solely for picture purposes.

    From here on out on breads that incorporate berries or nuts into the mixture I am not doing them in the Kitchen Aid. Every time I drop them into the mixing bowl they end up out of the bowl and I spend the next week finding walnut pieces in weird spots.

    On to the next week 🙂

    1:14 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  3. Kelly

    Gorgeous Nicole! Looks perfect. I really liked this one. I plan on making this for Thanksgiving but into rolls instead of a loaf. I’m also going to cut back on the fruit. It was a little to fruit-heavy for my tastes. All in all, though, it was delicious!

    Also, thanks for linking to my post!


    1:19 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  4. Ciaochowlinda

    What an absolutely beautiful loaf and I love the cherries and pecans you chose.
    Brava to you for trying this out – it looks so professional.

    1:55 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  5. Phoo-D

    This turned out just lovely! We enjoyed this bread quite a bit and did a combo of dried cherries and dried cranberries along with the walnuts. I agree with you that increasing the nuts and decreasing the dried fruit would be a good idea. If I were to make this again I would skip the braids and go loaf style as I think it would be easier to eat as breakfast toast in that shape. (Also, with a dark finish my braids just didn’t look very pretty.)

    2:00 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  6. Jennifer, Dove Team

    Hi Nicole,
    This looks delicious! Have you ever tried Dove Chocolate Promises with Peanut Butter? Dove Chocolate’s new Peanut Butter Promises are delicious, silky, smooth and heavenly! For more information, check out

    2:39 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  7. Deb

    Nicole, as always, GREAT photos! You make me want to bake this bread all over again. (almost!) My experience wasn’t quite so successful as my bread over proofed in a too warm kitchen but I learned a lesson to watch my bread and not the clock!

    My less than stellar experience can be found at

    I loved the English Muffins, French Bread & Italian bread and will be tackling the Kaiser Rolls this week.


    3:05 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  8. The Italian Dish

    Gosh, this is a nice bread. I bookmarked it. Great photos.

    3:11 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  9. Frieda

    Nicole~ awesome bread! Thanks for getting this challenge going…I’ve learned so much! French bread dough is proofing and I’m gearing up to be brave on the slashes…
    Here’s my celebration bread post…I made mini loaves using the single braid technique.

    3:58 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  10. Sarah

    This is beautiful and doesn’t look too difficult. I think I will try it out. Although, I may try it with dried cranberries.

    4:00 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  11. Dianne

    Hey Nicole, thanks again for including a link to my bread in your post! Your bread looks lovely, and I am quite jealous of how nicely it rose for you. So pretty!

    4:11 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  12. jenn @ Pete Eatemall

    Thanks for including my link. My creature from under the stove was tasty just not too pretty! Yours looks perfect…Happy baking! (As always thanks. :o)

    4:34 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  13. The Blushing Hostess

    Okay, let’s make a deal. I will bake vicariously through you by channeling good baking thoughts, then you send me the baked goods. How is this not a win-win?

    5:32 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  14. Rebecca

    That loaf is beautiful Nicole! Great job!

    5:59 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  15. susan from food blogga

    That double loaf is just gorgeous, Nicole!

    6:07 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  16. Lyndsey

    What a beautiful bread. The tart cherries and pecans sound devine. My sister brings me dried cherries down from Michigan when she visits. She gets them in bulk. I can’t get any around here that taste as good. This bread would be so good for breakfast mmm…

    Wish I could bake.

    7:49 pm  Aug 12th, 2009
  17. Alta

    Wow, how gorgeous. That braid looks great, and the egg wash certainly made the crust look so deliciously golden-brown. So jealous!

    5:04 am  Aug 13th, 2009
  18. ali @ gimmesomeoven

    Absolutely beautiful!! Cherries are undoubtedly one of my favorite dried fruits. Love the extra flavor they bring!

    Thanks for documenting the braiding process as well – fantastic pictures!! 🙂

    6:36 am  Aug 13th, 2009
  19. Valérie

    I always love your step-by-step pictures and instructions! You make this wonderful bread look easy! Beautiful!

    8:50 am  Aug 13th, 2009
  20. Terry Miller

    People seem to be divided on how much they like this bread. I, for one, loved it. One of my favorite lunches is a cranberry-nut bread, cheese, and fruit plate from Starbucks . . . and it comes with a substantial price tag. But I love it, so I indulge myself periodically. My only complaint with Starbucks’ plate is that the bread is frequently a little dry. So, it was with an improved Starbucks’ bread in mind that I made this bread. Not being a fan of walnuts (too bitter for me), I added pecans. Then, in quest of my imagined bread and not wanting another huge loaf, I formed my bread into three batards. At the completion of baking and waiting (the worst thing of all!), I took a bit of my first slice . . . with the requisite variety of cheese (brie, smoked gouda, extra sharp cheddar, muenster, Dubliner) and fruit (a few purple grapes and orange and apple slices) . . . and knew that I had surpassed my expectations. Absolutely loved the bread! And so did the friends who received the second loaf. I will definitely be baking this bread again . . . goodbye Starbucks!

    10:48 am  Aug 13th, 2009
  21. pam

    That is the best bread baking tutorial that I have ever seen! I might even attempt this one. Maybe.

    2:35 pm  Aug 13th, 2009
  22. mags

    I’m guilty of skipping over this one. I just didn’t have room for another loaf of sweet bread in my freezer! Kudos to you for sticking it out. And might I add that you did a fantastic job. Lovely bread Nicole.

    5:50 pm  Aug 13th, 2009
  23. Cindy

    It does look a little like a roast chicken!! Beautiful step by step photos.

    7:15 pm  Aug 13th, 2009
  24. Steph

    Wow Nicole…incredible how you make these beautiful creations. That bread looks not only yummy but just like a center piece for a big holiday meal or something. 🙂

    8:23 pm  Aug 13th, 2009
  25. Veron

    This looks delicious. Love the color of the bread!

    6:00 am  Aug 14th, 2009
  26. Shauna fromt Piece of Cake

    Gorgeous photos! The mise shot especially warms the cockles of my Type A heart.

    I am on a cherry-pecan bender of sorts after doing an Alice Medrich cookie recipe with them. It really is perfect!

    10:05 am  Aug 14th, 2009
  27. Ashley

    This is a beautiful loaf of bread – wow!

    11:56 am  Aug 14th, 2009
  28. Angelia McGowan

    That is so beautiful, and includes my favorite things! I cant wait to make this at the holidays, along with maybe a cranberry walnut one, you’ve got me thinking!

    8:23 pm  Aug 15th, 2009
  29. Di

    That looks fabulous, Nicole! I love how there are so many different breads in this book and how baking them alphabetically gives us a nice variety.

    11:14 am  Aug 16th, 2009
  30. amanda

    oh my gosh, that bread is gorgeous! I know you said you baked it a tad too long but I love the deep color. I bet it’s delicious and I can’t wait until I finally get around to making it!

    4:07 pm  Aug 16th, 2009
  31. Rebecca

    I hear you on being ready for a break from the celebration breads! Yours came out lovely, though. I made mine a couple weeks ago, but forgot to post any links to it. Here it is:

    5:45 pm  Aug 17th, 2009
  32. cheffresco

    I just recently made my first braided bread – I loved it. Yours looks so delicious!! And perfectly done!

    7:01 pm  Aug 17th, 2009
  33. A&N

    This is next on our list too! 🙂 Yours looks perfect, Nicole!

    3:22 pm  Aug 18th, 2009
  34. natalia

    Ciao Nicole ! I will be baking this wonderful bread in a long time ! For now I just made it to catch up the slow and steady group !!! Thanks always for creating this group !!!

    12:49 am  Aug 19th, 2009
  35. Laura

    Nicole, I loved this bread! I haven’t written a post yet though.

    I wanted to let you know that I am “passing” a little award I received from a friend onto your lovely blog. Enjoy!


    8:26 am  Aug 19th, 2009
  36. Daniel

    Hey Nicole,

    Fantastic looking bread. And with cherries! They rival cranberries in my book. Thank you so much for including a link to my bread, even though it came out all toppled! And thanks again for leading the Challenge!

    1:39 am  Aug 20th, 2009
  37. Hélène


    what a beautiful bread. I like the idea of adding cherries. Thanks again for starting the challenge. I enjoy doing it and learn more every week. 🙂

    11:32 am  Aug 25th, 2009
  38. AP269

    Beautiful bread. Worked out perfectly for me, too ;-). Here it is:

    1:38 pm  Oct 4th, 2009
  39. Danielle

    I took your advice and reduced the amount of dried fruit – worked like a charm!

    5:13 pm  Oct 14th, 2009
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  42. Ravenlynne

    NOt only lovely, but this is a delicious bread! I finished mine today:

    1:53 pm  Mar 9th, 2010
  43. mmk

    I made this on the weekend. I was going to skip it and wait for Thanksgiving (not another fruit bread…) but decided to bake it and am so glad I did. This loaf was wonderful. I had a mix of cranberries and raisins (didn’t have enough cranberries), as well as walnuts. It was so easy to make and looked gorgeous (and yes, rather like a roasted bird!). I took it to my son’s soccer game and it got eaten by the parents who were raving about it. Definitely one to repeat!

    8:30 pm  Apr 20th, 2010
  44. Kener

    It would have been nice if you had posted the recipe. At first I thought it was because you took it from a book but it is freely available on the web elsewhere. Would have saved me having to search for it.

    12:30 pm  Sep 19th, 2011
  45. Nicole

    Kener – I made the decision to not post the recipes for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge since I am working my way through the entire book. These recipes are not my own and the posts are informational for those who have the book or are just interested in watching the process. If the recipes are available elsewhere, that’s great, but a lot of work went into the book and I am not going to republish the entire thing on my blog.

    12:34 pm  Sep 19th, 2011
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