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A New England Holiday Bread With Olde World Roots

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“All the Celtic countries, with which the legendary King Arthur was associated, have a colorful bread filled with fruits and spices, traditionally made to celebrate festivals and holidays. In Scotland it's called "Selkirk Bannock," in northern Wales "Bara Brith," in Ireland "Barm Brack," and across the channel in Brittany (or Little Britain) "Morlaix Brioche." It was a simple dough, sweetened and loaded with hard-to-get sweetmeats and spices which were saved for special occasions. Choose from the Celtic or New England versions. The long prep time is 95% rising time.”
READY IN:
4hrs 35mins
YIELD:
2 loaves
UNITS:
US

Ingredients Nutrition

Directions

  1. MIXING THE DOUGH:
  2. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the water. Add and dissolve the yeast and dry milk.
  3. Stir in the whole wheat flour and spices.
  4. Cover and let this mixture work for 2 hours.
  5. PREPARING THE FRUIT:
  6. While the sponge bubbles away, melt the butter over very low heat.
  7. Remove it from the heat and add the balance of the sugar and the dried fruit of your choice.
  8. After 2 hours, blend this into the sponge.
  9. FINISHING AND KNEADING THE DOUGH:
  10. Add the salt and then the unbleached flour a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  11. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it begins to feel as if it belongs together.
  12. Let it rest while you clean and grease your bowl.
  13. Continue kneading the relaxed dough until it feels smooth and springy.
  14. RISING:
  15. Form dough into a ball, place it in the greased bowl, turning it so the top is greased, cover and place it where it will be warm and cozy.
  16. Because this is a sweet dough, we are using double the amount of yeast.
  17. Even so, the rising period may take longer than usual, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  18. SHAPING and RISING:
  19. When you can poke your finger in the dough without it bouncing back, knock it down, turn it out onto your floured board, and knead out any stray bubbles.
  20. You can divide this dough in two pieces and bake it in two bread pans or bake it as two round free-form loaves.
  21. For a grander offering, bake it as one large round loaf. Place the shaped dough in lightly greased bread pans or on a baking sheet.
  22. Let the dough rise until almost doubled again.
  23. BAKING:
  24. Fifteen minutes before you bake the bread, preheat your oven.
  25. Two loaves: Preheat to 350°F and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
  26. One large loaf: Preheat your oven to 400°F Bake for 1 hour, lowering the temperature 25°F after the first 15 minutes and every 15 minutes thereafter (your final baking temperature should be 325°F).

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