The closest my family has to a holiday baking tradition...

Bishop's Bread. I know--it looks like fruitcake, that butt of so many holiday jokes, the traditional--and unwelcome--gift that ends up as a doorstop rather than dessert. But this one's different, I promise!

This recipe came to us back in the 1960s via my godmother, Annie Lep. Her Bishop's Bread was a bit more colorful, using red and green candied cherries and yellow citron along with nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips.The candied fruits gave it a very festive look but not the best flavor. Still, my mother made it each year and we ate it quite happily.

Later, established in my own household, I pulled out the Bishop's Bread recipe. Over the years, I have made some changes. I replaced the artificially colored and flavored cherries and citron with quantities of dried fruits--dried cherries, apricots, pineapple, golden raisins, dates. Use whatever combination of fruits suits you. I like to use half walnuts and half pecans, but any nut or combination of nuts would be fine. I've also drastically reduced the amount of added sugar from that given in the original recipe. The result is a loaf jam-packed with guilt-free goodness, a definite plus amid the mountains of sweet, rich holiday goodies. Also, Bishop's Bread freezes very well, so if you've got too many treats around right now, wrap this up and freeze it, then enjoy it later in the winter.

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Basically, Bishop's Bread is a combination of dried fruits, chocolate, and nuts bound together with just barely enough batter to hold them together in a loaf. When you mix this up, you may feel sure that the batter will never distribute around all the stuffings, but it will.

Dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate chips coated with flour just before adding the egg mixture

Here's the recipe. Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of cold milk, or maybe with a little whiskey for a late-night snack. It was always popular when we left a couple of slices as a treat for Santa Claus on Christmas eve!

BISHOPS BREAD                                

 Yield: single recipe: 1 very large or @5 small loaves

            double recipe: 3 large or @11 small loaves

Single    Double

 1 ½         3        cups flour

 1 ½         3        tsp double-acting baking powder

 ¼            ½       tsp salt

 1              2       cups chocolate chips (measure generously!)

 2          4        cups chopped nuts (measure generously!)

 3           4-6      cups snipped dates and golden raisins

 2–3         4–6    cups other dried fruits, including dried cherries or cranberries

  3             6       eggs

  ½           1        cups sugar (or eliminate entirely)

1)   Grease loaf pans; line bottom with three layers waxed paper. Preheat oven to 325°.

2)   Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into bowl; stir in fruit, nuts, and chocolate until well coated with flour.

3)   In large bowl beat eggs well, then gradually beat in sugar. Fold in flour mixture, and “pour” into greased pan(s). (“Shovel” is more like it!)

4)   Bake large loaves @1 ½ hours (start checking it after an hour and fifteen minutes) and small loaves @30–40 minutes until brown on top but not too brown, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean (don’t be fooled by melted chocolate chips).

5)   Cool in pan on wire rack, then remove from pan. Remove waxed paper, wrap in foil, and store at room temperature. Best sliced thin.

6)   This freezes very well. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. To thaw, let sit one hour, then slice.


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