AT THE TABLE Salt-Encrusted Cranberry-Pecan Rye Bread

By Theresa Curry/images by Mark Miller

Even if you've never made bread, try this wonderful festive loaf created by Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington. Those who are familiar with Chef O'Connell will not be surprised to know that this recipe works perfectly every time with the amounts and times just exactly as they are. The loaves freeze beautifully, and I always keep some on hand.

Perfect with any kind of flavourful cheese or smoked fish, this beautiful bread belongs on your holiday hors d'oeuvres plate, or serve it at the table with ham or pork. At my house we make little sandwiches with just cream cheese, too. Take the time to roll the dough cylinders evenly in the salt and caraway for a gorgeous presentation. I just run my hands under cool water before rolling them to make sure the outside is moist and the coating sticks. I've also kneaded them by hand instead of using the mixer -- surprisingly easy!
The recipe calls for currants but during the holidays, I substitute dried cranberries or cherries for the currants. Chef O'Connell chose pecans out of respect for Virginia nut growers, but walnuts are fine, too. The recipe makes three cylindrical loaves, and it's fun to package them attractively for guests to take home, or to give as gifts. 


1 package (1 tablespoon) dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
7 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds (divided)
2 1/2 cups rye flour
3 cups bread flour
2 cups warm (95 degrees F) water
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup dried black currants, raisins or other dried fruit
Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup kosher salt

1. In the 5-quart bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook,
combine the yeast, sugar, salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the caraway
seeds, the rye flour, and bread flour. Mix until thoroughly
2. With the mixer running, slowly add the water and mix until the dough
forms a ball and leaves the sides of the bowl. This will take about
2 minutes.
3. Add the pecans and currants or raisins and mix for 2 minutes more.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Wipe out the mixing bowl
and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Return the dough to the bowl,
cover with a damp tea towel, and place in a warm (about 85 degrees)
spot for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
5. Punch the dough down to release the trapped gases. Form it into 3
loaves approximately 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Brush with
cold water and sprinkle generously with the kosher salt and remaining
6 tablespoons caraway seeds.
6. Place the loaves on a lightly greased baking sheet and let sit in a
warm place for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven
to 350 degrees F
7. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the pan every 10 minutes or so to
ensure even browning.
8. Cool on a wire rack.

Long-time food writer Theresa Curry tells stories about food and the people who prepare it and is grateful to have chosen a career that has her shelling muddy crawfish one day and tasting fine wine the next.
A current project is working on a series of food stories as part of the documentary division of Alpha Vision Films.
Connect with Theresa on Facebook and via email at



  1. This looks incredible–if only I were eating it at the Inn at Little Washington this Christmas!

  2. Lena,
    Now that would be a Christmas dream come true! I hear it's one gorgeous place and if they offer bread like this, I would never check out!

  3. This looks SO good!!!! I want a slice right now.

    - Regina
    Margarita Bloom: Retro Beauty & Skincare