Cumbrian Christmas bread recipe

By Elizabeth Weisberg

  1. Makes 1 large loaf
  2. Takes 20 minutes to make, 45 minutes to cook, plus soaking and proving
  3. Rating

A traditional, spiced bread best enjoyed warm with butter.

tried and tested
Cumbrian Christmas bread

Ingredients

  1. 30g currants
  2. 30g sultanas
  3. 55g raisins
  4. 20g mixed peel
  5. 3 tbsp rum or brandy

  6. For the ferment
  7. 17.5g fresh yeast (available from Sainsbury’s superstores) or 6g active dried yeast or 7g fast action yeast
  8. 10g caster sugar
  9. 75g strong white bread flour
  10. 150ml warm water
  11. 100ml milk

  12. For the dough
  13. 400g strong white bread flour
  14. 75g caster sugar
  15. 2 tsp salt
  16. 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  17. 1 medium free-range egg
  18. 1 tbsp black treacle
  19. 40g unsalted butter, melted and cooled a little
  20. All of the ferment from above
  21. Vegetable oil for greasing

Method

  1. 1. In a bowl soak the fruit and peel in the rum or brandy for at least 2 hours.
  2. 2. For the ferment, sift the yeast (if dry) sugar and flour into a bowl, then whisk in the water and milk until you have a smooth batter. Cover with a lid or cling film and leave to ferment for 30-45 minutes or until risen and puffy.
  3. 3. For the dough, sift all the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the egg, treacle, melted butter and the ferment. Mix well with a wooden spoon until a rough dough is formed (if the dough still seems a little dry after mixing, add a 2 tbsp of water and continue). Knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and silky (by hand or machine). Drain the fruit of any excess liquid and gradually work it into the dough at the very end of the kneading time.
  4. 4. Put the dough in a large well-oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for 2 hours. The dough should be nicely risen and feel airy, but will not quite double in size.
  5. 5. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a smooth round loaf. Put on a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for about 30-45 minutes. Check the dough is ready to go into the oven by pressing it lightly with a finger. If the impression left by your finger remains, the dough is ready. If it springs back, continue to prove for another 5-10 minutes and check again.
  6. 6. Bake the loaf for 35-45 minutes, covering with foil if it looks like it is getting too brown. Check if it is done by tapping on its bottom and listening for a hollow sound. Cool on a rack before. Serve warm spread with lots of butter.

Chef's tip

Use up any leftovers in a festive bread and butter pudding.

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