Due to it being the run-up to the festive season, thought this traditional plum bread (always associated with Christmas) might be an appropriate recipe for today. In some ways it is similar to the Italian pannetone
, and this English version can be sliced, toasted and spread with butter, or eaten plain with cheese. As it makes two small loaves, no reason why it cannot make even smaller ones (use Muffin tins and allow a shorter time of baking), make close to the time, and pop one into that Christmas gift hamper.
The mixed dried fruit can be the cooks choice from: sultanas, raisins, currants, finely chopped dried dates, prunes, apricots, and if possible, include chopped candied peel.
For our American readers, just for once am including cup measurements.Lincolnshire Plum Bread: makes 2 small loaves1 lb (450g - 4 cups) strong white bread flourpinch of salt1 tsp freshly grated nutmeng1 tsp ground cinnamon2 1/2 teaspoon fast-acting (instant) yeast4 tblsp (60ml) soft brown sugar4 oz (115g) butter, dicedapprox 4 fl oz (100ml - 3/4 cup) milk2 eggs, beaten8 oz (225g - 1 cup) mixed dried fruit (see above)Sift the flour and spiced together into a bowl and stir in the sugar and yeast. Gently heat the butter with the milk until the butter has dissolved and use when at blood heat.Stir the eggs and enough of the milk/butter into the flour to make a soft mixture that will gather into a smooth ball of dough. Cover the bowl with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled n size, this make take over an hour. Don't rush it.Meanwhile, line 2 x 1lb (450g) loaf tins (US pans) with baking parchment.When dough has risen, knead lightly on a flour-dusted surface, working in the dried fruit as you knead, as evenly as possible. Then divide in half, place in the prepared tins, cover again with oiled cling film, and leave to rise again in a warm place until nearly doubled in size (this should take about half an hour - again don't rush it, the higher the rise the more open the texture of the baked loaf).Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 40 minutes, then remove the bread from the tins, placing the loaves back into the oven for a further five minutes or until they sound hollow when the base is tapped (normal bread-baking procedure). Cool on a cake airer.
You'll remember me mentioning Gill (my 'best friend' who will be coming to stay with me while B is away). She used to make wonderful bread when they lived in an old Mill House, using an AGA type oven, but still worked well in a conventional oven. Her recipe was first published in 'More For Your Money'
, and because it is so simple feel it is worth repeating again. The only difference was when the book was published, the 'instant yeast' as we know it today, was not then available, only dried granules which needed soaking before use, but am sure - using the 'instant' today - it would work just as well. I include the 'chat' as published with the recipe.Gill's Bread:Gill makes the best bread I've ever tasted. She breaks the rules, which shows you need never be afraid to experiment. Her bread isn't kneaded and only proves once in the tins, and keeps fresh for several days. Do try it. This recipe makes 2 large loaves.1 oz (25g) fresh yeast, or 4 tsp dried yeast 2 tsp sugar1 lb 4 oz (56og) wholewheat or wholemeal flour12 oz (350g) strong white flour2 rounded tsp salt1 oz (25g) lard1 pint (570ml) warm waterFirst prepare the yeast (see footnote), Put the flours and salt into a bowl and rub in the lard. Grease two large loaf tins. When the yeast is ready, pour into the flour and stir with a wooden spoon, then gather the mixture together with your hands - this is the only 'kneading' necessary. Divide the mixture in two and press into the two tins. Slash the dough across the top in several places. Put the tins in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 30 - 35 minutes. The bread is done if it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Place on a wire rack to cool.Footnote: To prepare fresh yeast: crumble yeast into a bowl, add the sugar and stir until liquid. Add the warm water and leave until frothy.To prepare dried yeast: dissolve the sugar n the warm water and sprinkle the dried yeast over. Leave to stand until it has a frothy head - takes about 10 minutes).