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Real Christmas bread

In Britain we tend to put our dried fruits and spices into cakes, puddings and mince pies. This recipe for a Christmas bread from Andrew Whitley deserves to become a seasonal classic.


For the pre-ferment

  • 175g white bread flour
  • 5g fresh yeast
  • 125g water, at about 25°C

For the fruit and nut soaker

  • 100g crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 100g raisins or sultanas
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 50g pitted dates, chopped
  • 50g dried figs, quartered
  • 100g almonds or Brazil nuts, chopped
  • 50g / 3⅓ tbsp rum, brandy or fruit juice

For the dough

  • 220g white bread flour
  • 100g  butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 70g dark brown sugar
  • 100g lightly-beaten egg, (about 2 eggs)


  1. Mix the pre-ferment ingredients together thoroughly, cover and leave in the refrigerator for about 12 hours overnight. Meanwhile, mix the soaker ingredients together in a bowl, substituting similar fruits, nuts and liquid if you wish, according to taste, allergies or simply what you have to hand. Leave this mixture at room temperature for about 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Mix the dough ingredients into the pre-ferment and knead until the sticky mixture becomes a soft, smooth and glossy dough. Cover and leave at room temperature for 2–3 hours. At this point you can give it a fold and leave it for another hour or so, but this isn’t essential.
  3. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a rectangle about 20x25cm. Spread the fruit and nut soaker over almost all the surface. Roll the dough up carefully, turn it through 90 degrees and gently roll it up again, taking care not to force the fruit through the surface. The aim is even distribution, but it is better to leave the dough a bit lumpy than to work it so much that you end up with a mess.
  4. Grease the baking tin (or tins) with butter, shape the dough to fit and place it in the tin(s). Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough doesn’t spring back instantly when gently pressed. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas 4.
  5. Bake a large loaf for 45–60 minutes, smaller ones for about 30–40 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown.

Additional notes

For an extra glossy crust, you can brush the top of the dough with a little beaten egg before baking or with melted butter afterward. For a festive flourish, dust the top with icing/confectioners’ sugar when it has cooled.


Recipe (c) Real Bread Campaign and Scotland The Bread co-founder Andrew Whitley. Taken from Slow Dough: Real Bread by Chris Young, published by Nourish Books. Photo (c) Victoria Harley.

Contribution by:

Real Bread Campaign
Project of Eating Better alliance member Sustain
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Real Bread is made without chemical raising agents, so-called processing aids or any other additives. This includes, but is not limited to, genuine sourdough bread. From this simple and universally-accessible starting point, the Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways of making bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet.

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