If you want to know more about the Lammas Fayre flour grown by our friend John Letts then don’t miss this Sunday’s Countryfile on BBC1, 6pm. Find out about his research into heritage growing and a look around the farm including scything, milling and some of his thatching too. Should be very interesting.

Lincolnshire Plum Bread

If you haven’t already done so, you have only this weekend to register to enter this year’s Tiptree World Bread Awards. There is a wide range of categories for both amateurs and professionals. Give it a go or you will miss out for another year.

This is the time of year for lots of fruit ripening all at once in gardens. My plum tree, for the first time has decided to give us a large bowl of red plums. There are only so many that we can eat and put on the top of a frangipane tart, so have been looking for other uses. While chatting on the ‘phone with a customer some time ago, I was asked if we could produce a recipe for Lincolnshire Plum Bread. Seemed like a good idea, so I asked Vanessa to look into it…a slight issue that Vanessa pointed out is that it doesn’t actually contain plums at all (unless you use dried ones – prunes, that is)! To seamlessly get around this, I will use my fruit drier and do just that. If you want to dry some plums use a drier or set your oven to 50C and put your split plums on a tray and in the oven overnight with the door ajar.

I love a bit of a challenge and the chance to read about the history of a recipe so I started scouring my collection of old recipe books.

I soon discovered that we’ve been drying fruit, such as plums for hundreds of years. One of my oldest books is The Queens Closet (1674) which contains instructions that are now almost 350 years old about how to dry plums - she goes on to include a plum cake later in the book.

Further reading and I discovered that almost every household book I have has a recipe for a plum bread or similar. It is hardly surprising given that we have grown garden fruits for centuries and pre refrigeration, drying an was an important way to preserve it.

For a bit of historical context for this recipe I dipped into English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David (1977) where she includes a recipe for a plain bread, in the chapter Regional and Festival Yeast Cakes and Fruit Bread, from 1760. It is not specifically for a Lincolnshire Plum bread though, but further reading of the chapter mentions Northumbrian harvest tea cake, a Suffolk Harvest cake, a Yorkshire spice loaf and a seventeenth century spice cake from the countess of Kent. It seems that each county has its own version. They are all slightly different and yet there are common themes throughout. They all contain dried fruit, spices and use yeast. Mrs Beeton’s version (1907) includes caraway seeds and candied peel, and it seems that as time went on not all plum bread (or cakes) even contain plums since the word “plum” is actually an old word meaning dried fruit. Instead, they are packed with sultanas, raisins and from the mid 1850s they also contain mixed peel. There is no reason why one of the dried fruits can’t be prunes though. The reoccurring serving suggestion is cheese, in a similar way to the way fruitcake is commonly served in Yorkshire.

There is a kind of romance in recreating the same bread that was enjoyed by people in the past, so for a really authentic version of a traditional Lincolnshire Plum bread, I have used a heritage flour from Lammas Fayre and fresh yeast. I have noticed several references to avoiding the cake catching (burning) so I’ve used a 900g Pullman tin for this loaf which will protect it while it is baking and preserves the moisture making it even more delicious.

Lincolnshire Plum Bread


This is one to make in the morning and then bake in the evening.

• Soak the mixed fruit and prunes for 6-8 hours in the tea. Once soaked and plump, drain the fruit and discard all but 50g of the liquid. Mix the reserved liquid with the yeast and then whisk in the malt extract, buttermilk, melted butter and eggs, and beat well.

• In the meantime sift the flour, salt, spices, and sugar into a large bowl and mix.

• Then pour the liquid into the flour, mix, then add the plumped up drained fruit, mix well then leave for 10 minutes.

• Place the dough on a clean lightly dusted work surface, dust with a little more flour then shape the dough - it will be sticky but bear with it, it will come together, so I find using a dough scraper useful to do this. This loaf doesn’t require an extensive knead due to the slow prove, turn a few times and then shape.

• Place in a well greased lightly floured (don’t forget to grease and flour the lid) 900g Pullman pan. Leave in an ambient temperature until it is risen two inches below the top of the tin. Be patient as this is a slow rise.

• Preheat your oven 160C. Place your loaf in the tin, in the oven and bake for an hour. Remove the lid carefully and continue to bake for 25 - 30 minutes more.

• To check if it is baked, insert a skewer - it should come out clean, if not continue to bake for a further 10 minutes and retest until the skewer comes out clean.

• Cool the loaf on a wire rack before slicing and serving with slices of cheese.

Makes: One 900g loaf


300g strong black tea
200g mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas etc)
100g prunes, roughly chopped
13g Osmotolerant yeast
2 large tablespoons malt extract
75g buttermilk
75g butter, melted
2 free-range eggs, beaten
450g Heritage Blend White Flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
75g dark brown sugar
Butter, softened for greasing

Pullman Bread Pan

USA Pans is part of the world's largest industrial bakeware manufacturer. The pullman pan is tough like commercial bakeware but designed for the domestic baker. Measuring 23cm (9") long and making 4" (10cm) slices, you can make a perfect sandwich loaf.

Saf-Gold Instant Osmotolerant Yeast

The recognised international reference instant yeast for high sugar recipes, in 500g vacuum pack

Heritage Blend Wholesome White Flour, 1.5kg

A very special flour from Lammas Fayre, this organic heritage white flour has been produced from over 200 genetically diverse wheat varieties.