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A Fruit Loaf Big Enough for a Rugby Team


Always terrible at team sports, rugby passed me by until recently when I was encouraged to watch the world cup some of which took place in nearby Exeter so there was lots of local enthusiasm. While being mostly confused by what is going on at any time, I can appreciate the skill and athleticism along with an apparent lack of any pain threshold and so I have started to watch a bit more in the hope that I might start to understand what the difference between a ruck, maul and scrum is – and why they do them in the first place as I am told it isn’t just a random collective need for one…I am on more confident territory when it comes to the pleasure of a fruit cake. So, what better during the Six Nations than to get Vanessa to come up with a fruit cake big enough for a rugby team, one that can be shared and will keep well until devoured?

As I am writing this, my son has just walked in to my office so muddy I reckon he has almost half the school pitch all over his legs.

Over the course of the next few weeks my house will be full of chaps drinking tea / beer and eating me out of house and home - all sitting on the couch ... occasionally leaping up, shouting, swearing, and calling the referee names I don’t care to repeat. So this loaf is one to feed an actual rugby team. It is a rugby size fruit loaf and it keeps for over a week.

This recipe is an old-fashioned tea loaf. It is an essential in our house and I won’t just be baking this for match days mainly because this loaf actually improves after a day if you can wait and any has been left. It makes fantastic toast and due to the slightly acidic nature of the sourdough, it also keeps well (for up to a week) and freezes very well too. One of my tricks to feeding a large family at short notice is to prepare the loaf properly so that it can be frozen without suffering: slice this loaf up, wrap it in greaseproof paper and pop it back in to the tin. Then, wrap the tin in a tea towel or a bread bag and put it inside a plastic bag and tie the handles to prevent freezer burn (the drying effect). The tin becomes the storage and you can take slices out when needed to provide delicious toast and butter at a moment’s notice.

I know that some of you will want to make this as a 2lb loaf. It does work if you halve the ingredients. It cooks in about an hour.

Sourdough Great Big Fruit Loaf

This recipe is actually a really old-fashioned style tea loaf. It is an essential things in our house and I won’t just be baking this for match days mainly because this loaf actually improves after a day if you can wait. It makes fantastic toast and due to the sourdough and the increased lactic acid it also makes keeps for up to a week, and freezes very well. One of my tricks to feeding a large family at short notice is to slice this loaf up, wrap it in greaseproof paper and pop it back into the tin. Then wrap the tin in a tea towel or a bread bag, and then for good measure I put it inside a plastic bag and tie the handles – this will prevent freezer burn. The tin in effect becomes the storage, you can take slices out when you want to and can provide delicious toast and butter at a moment's notice.

I know that some of you will want to make this as a 2lb loaf. It does work if you have the ingredients. It cooks in about an hour

Method

The day before you want to bake, make the leaven after lunch, leave for 8 hours and then make the dough that evening to ferment overnight.

Leaven: After lunch on the day before you want to bake make a leaven. Mix 2 large tablespoons of refreshed sourdough starter with the cold water and strong white flour in a bowl. Cover with a clean, damp tea towel and leave on the side in a cool environment until the evening, about 8 hours.

That evening, melt the butter and beat the eggs, stir in the milk and the sourdough leaven, together. In another bowl, sieve the flour and spices together to ensure well distributed then add the salt, and sugar. Pour in the liquid mixture into the dry and mix well. Stir in the currants and Primavera mix. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a cool environment (about 8C is ideal) overnight.

The following morning the dough should have doubled in size. Heat the oven to 170C.

Butter and line a 4lb loaf tin with baking parchment and VERY gently tip the dough into the tin. Glaze with the egg and milk mixture. Leave for 10 minutes on the side to settle. Pop in the oven for 50 minutes until golden brown then cover with foil and bake for a further 30 minutes at 140C.

Important note: Some ovens cook more slowly than others. I err on the side of caution, so please do check that the inside is thoroughly cooked before you take it out of the oven, by inserting a skewer into the deepest section of the cake. It will come out clean if it is baked through. If not pop it back in the oven and leave for another 10 minutes, still covered with foil and test again.

Cool on a rack.

Serve toasted and buttered – it’s unbeatable!

Number of servings: 15 +

Equipment:

2 large mixing bowls Clean tea towels 4lb Farmhouse Loaf Tin Baking parchment and butter for greasing Pastry brush

Sourdough leaven ingredients:

2 large tablespoons Sourdough Starter 60g cold water 60g Organic Type "00" Soffiata Strong White Flour

Loaf Ingredients: 125g butter 2 eggs 425g milk or milk and water 200g sourdough leaven 800g Organic Type "00" Soffiata Strong White Flour 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 125g caster sugar 75g currants 50g Candied Primavera Mix

Baking glaze: 1 egg and 2 tablespoons of milk

RELATED Products

Farmhouse Loaf Tin, 4lb | £15.36

A 4lb or 1800g farmhouse loaf tin with steep sides and folded ends, just right for the farmhouse loaf shape.

Vanessa's Sourdough Starter | £14.00

Fresh sourdough starter from Vanessa Kimbell, taken from a 200 year-old culture in France. It is fed on organic white wheat flour and water and at least 300g is delivered in a convenient pot to keep a small quantity in your fridge between use.

Bread Board | £9.84

The square butcher's block is made from really hard-wearing bamboo, ideal for slicing crusty loaves

Do you have a sourdough question for Vanessa? Send it to us and the best ones will appear in our next postbag edition and receive a dough whisk.

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