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A great big Fruit loaf


A common theme that you hear from British beekeepers (myself included) almost every year is that this has been a funny year and hopefully next year will be better. This year is no exception. My bees managed to build up quite a lot of honey this July and I went on holiday happy in the knowledge that there would be a surplus this year, only to find that August was more like winter and my bees were stuck indoors, surviving on their winter stores and their surplus…I even received a note from DEFRA telling me that bees are starving all over the UK and that I might need to give them an emergency feed of sugar syrup…In the event, my bees did not need the extra feed and a couple of hives did manage to yield a little honey, but British honey is going to be in short supply this year…maybe it will be better next…

Here’s the formula:

More rugby = less time to bake. ___________________________ More rugby = more tea breaks in half time

You can see the dilemma. Thankfully I have solved this terrible conundrum by asking Vanessa to come up with an appropriate rugby ball size loaf. The sort of loaf that you don’t mind sharing with your mates, because there is lots of it and the kind of loaf that keeps, if you can’t eat it all over one weekend.

I do sympathize with this dilemma. Literally as I am writing this, my son has just walked into my office, so muddy I reckon he has almost half the school pitch all over his legs.

Over the course of the next few week my house is also 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

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

About 2pm the day before you want to bake make a leaven by mixing 2 large tablespoons of Sourdough starter, with 60 grams of cold water and 60g of strong white flour in a bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel, run under water and wrung out thoroughly and leave on the side in a cool environment until the evening – usually 8 hours.

At 10pm that evening melt the butter and beat the eggs, stir in the milk and the sourdough levain, together. Sieve the flour and spices add the salt and sugar then pour in the liquid mixture and mix well. Stir in the currants and peel. Mix thoroughly. Cover with a wrung out wet cloth and leave in a cool environment (about 8 degrees is ideal) overnight.

The following morning the dough should have doubled in size. Heat the oven to 170C (325F).

Butter and line a 4lb loaf tin with baking parchment, 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 at 170C for 1 hour and 20 minutes until golden brown – please note that after around 30 minutes reduce the temperature to 140C (275F) and cover with foil.

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

Cool on a rack. { insert rack ink}

Serve toasted and buttered – it’s unbeatable!

Proving time: Make the leaven the afternoon before and ferment for 8 hours. Then make the dough the evening before and ferment overnight.

Number of servings: 15 +

Equipment in order of usage:

2 large mixing bowls clean tea towels 4lb loaf pan Baking parchment and butter for greasing Pastry brush

Specific flour used: Mulino Marino Organic Type “00” Soffiata Flour

Sourdough levain ingredients (to be made the day before):

2 large tablespoons Sourdough Starter { https://www.bakerybits.co.uk/fresh-sourdough-starter.html } 60g cold water 60g organic type “00” white flour

Ingredients:

125g local butter 2 free range eggs 3/4 pint milk or milk and water 200g sourdough levain 800g organic type “00” white flour { https://www.bakerybits.co.uk/bakery-ingredients/flour/mulino-marino-mill/organic-00-soffiata-flour.html } 1 teaspoon Fairtrade cinnamon { https://www.bakerybits.co.uk/cinnamon-powder-fairtrade.html } 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 125g fairtrade caster sugar 75g currants 50g chopped peel

Baking glaze:

1 egg and 2 tablespoons of milk

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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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