Thursday, 18 February 2016

Fruit Bread

When I was a teenager, I worked as a Saturday girl at a bakery in the town I grew up in, from the age of fourteen until I was nineteen. The pay was appalling (£2 an hour), but it was a really fun place to work, with one of the very obvious perks being lots of free food. At the end of every Saturday, we would bag up any leftover bread and cream cakes that we wanted, then throw the rest away. If ever there was a loaf of fruit bread left, our boss would tear it in half and give one half each to me and Emma, my fellow Saturday girl. We would then tear out the middle of the loaf and eat the lot. It was absolutely delicious - soft, sweet dough with just the right smattering of sultanas and spice.

I have never lost my love for fruit bread, but I only attempted to make it for the first time a couple of years ago, after seeing a Mary Berry recipe for a hot cross bun loaf. I have made a variation on Mary Berry's recipes a good many times now, regardless of whether it's Easter or not, but seeing as Easter is approaching, I thought I would take the opportunity to share my version of the bread here. I love this toasted with butter for breakfast, or as an afternoon snack.

Fruit Bread
50g unsalted butter
90g sultanas or raisins
50g dried cranberries
450g strong white bread flour
7g yeast
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp mixed spice,
1 tsp cinnamon
50g light muscovado sugar (I've also used light brown sugar & this is fine too)
150ml full fat or semi skimmed milk
zest of 1-2 lemons
1 egg

1) Melt the butter and let it cool.
2) In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the flour, sugar, spices, zest, yeast and salt.
3) Heat the milk with 5tbsp (75ml) water until warm to the touch.
4) Lightly beat the egg with a fork
5) Pour the cooled butter & beaten egg into the mixing bowl.
6) Gradually pour the warmed milk and water into the mixing bowl, either while the mixer is on (with dough hook attached), or with a round bladed knife.
7) Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until it's smooth and stretchy.
8) Take the dough out of the bowl and stretch it out a little bit. Add a good handful of the dried fruit and fold the dough in on itself, then knead a little to distribute the fruit. Repeat this process until all of the fruit is added.
9) Lightly oil the mixing bowl, then return the dough to the bowl to prove. Cover with a damp tea towel (this stops the dough from drying out).
10) Leave to prove until the dough has doubled in size - this takes about an hour, but it's fine to leave the dough for 2-3 hours.
11) Using sunflower oil and a pastry brush, grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper, then oil the paper. If you don't have a loaf tin, you could either make rolls, or a round cob loaf, or any shape you fancy, really! If you're making a cob loaf, all you need is a baking tray.
12) Once the dough has risen, remove from the bowl and knock the air out of it, by folding the dough in on itself. Shape into a loaf, then place into the prepared loaf tin, or baking tray if using.
13) Place inside either a large plastic container with a lid, or a plastic bag for the second rise. If using a plastic bag, make sure the bag is well away from the dough, then tuck the edge of the bag underneath the tin / tray, creating a little tent for your dough to rise in.
14) Leave to rise for another hour. Pre-heat the oven to 200C / gas mark 6. (For the second rise, it's quite important to bake the loaf after an hour - you can't leave it to rise for 2 hours and forget about it, otherwise the dough will over ferment and deflate.)
15) Bake for 15 minutes, then cover with foil or greaseproof paper to prevent burning, and bake for a further 10 minutes.
16) Remove the loaf from the oven - you can check if it's fully baked by removing it from the tin and tapping the bottom of the loaf in the middle. If it sounds hollow, then it's baked.
17) Place on a wire rack to cool as soon as the bread comes out of the oven. If you leave it to cool in the tin, it'll go soggy.
18) If you wanted to add an Easter touch to this bread, you can pipe crosses on the top with a paste made from 2 tbsp plain flour and 2 tbsp water.
19) Eat warm with butter and enjoy!!

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