If Christmas pudding and Christmas cake do not do it for you, or if you want a change from the obvious, perhaps you might consider Christmas Bread to mark the celebration?
As we have discussed on several previous occasions, before the development of baking powders in the second half of the nineteenth century, ‘cakes’ were generally made from bread dough enriched with butter, sugar, spices, and dried fruit. So, if you make either of the bread recipes given today, you could quite accurately present it as an early form of Christmas cake, if you wish.
Take half-stone of flour, one ounce of yeast, four pounds of currants, or two pounds of raisins and two pounds of currants, half a pound of candied peel, one pound of sugar, one and a half pounds of either lard or good dripping, mixed with warm milk. Mix flour and lard together with a little salt; mix in the yeast, and knead as you would bread. When risen, add the other ingredients and let it rise again before baking. Sometimes it is necessary to add a little more milk when mixing currants &c. This is a good family spice bread.
The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, England), of Saturday, December 19, 1891
[I don’t know if the spices were left out of this recipe, or the author is simply letting us know they could be added.]
English Christmas Bread.
English Christmas Bread.
To about four and one-half quarts of flour add two tablespoons of lard, one handful of salt, one cup of brown sugar. Set on the back of the stove to warm. Boil four medium-sized potatoes, strain and when lukewarm add five yeast cakes, one half cup of sugar, enough flour to make a sponge. While the sponge is rising add to the flour two pounds of seedless raisins, one and one-half pounds of large raisins, one-fourth pound of candied citron, two teaspoonfuls each of allspice cinnamon and mace, one teaspoon of cloves, one handful of caraway seeds. When the sponge is ready to add to the whole, use enough warm water to make about the same as white bread, adding one-half cup of syrup to the water. Let rise over night, put in tins, let rise again, then bake in a slow oven.
This admirable recipe our Practical cook secured from an English lady now resident in this country who keeps up the old country Christmas traditions.
Hood’s Practical Cook’s Book (Massachusetts, 1897)
Quotation for the Day.
If you drop a slice of bread with jelly on it, it always lands jelly-side down. It’s God’s way of telling you that you shouldn’t snack between meals.
‘Bits and Pieces’