A New England Holiday Bread With Olde World Roots

Total Time
4hrs 35mins
Prep 4 hrs
Cook 35 mins

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.

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).
Most Helpful

5 5

Absolutely delicious bread - I am planning to make this for Christmas this year! Do not think this is cumbersome at all, in fact it's quite simple to make and perfect for a lazy sunday morning. I made the New England version, but will be watching for the peel at the market, as I'd love to try the Celtic version. I am sending both loaves in to DH's work this morning, so unfortunately, no pictures this time. Thanks, Annacia! Made for PRMR Tag.

5 5

Please don't be alarmed by the seemingly never ending list of instructions,it's nowhere near as bad it looks.Besides,the results are well worth any effort (not that I would class this as effort!!). I went for the Celtic version,being from the UK,and made mine into two free form loaves,that were simply enormous,and simply delicious!! The children are loving it too (my 2 year old keeps pointing to it and shouting 'share share' at me!!). Thanks Annacia for a wonderful recipe.Made for PhotoTag.

5 5

Am definitely not used to tagging or making recipes with this many steps or this much time in the preparation, but when it comes to you, Annacia, AND to a holiday bread, I'm willing to make an exception! I did the New England version this time around, but definitely want to try the Celtic one when I can get my hands on (or I COULD make) the citrus peel! I also made it free-form as one large loaf & used a whole grain flour! Was extremely happy with the results ~ BEAUTIFUL LOAVES, & GREAT TASTE! I definitely will be making this again, at least several times during the winter holidays! [Tagged, made & reviewed in Zaar Chef Alphabet Soup Game]