New England Thanksgiving Bread

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New England Thanksgiving Bread

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Published prior to 2008

All the Celtic countries, with which the legendary King Arthur was associated, have a colorful bread filled with fruits and spices, traditionally made to celebrate festivals and holidays. In Scotland it's called "Selkirk Bannock," in northern Wales "Bara Brith," in Ireland "Barm Brack," and across the channel in Brittany (or Little Britain) "Morlaix Brioche." It was a simple dough, sweetened and loaded with hard-to-get sweetmeats and spices which were saved for special occasions.

1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) brown sugar
2 cups (16 ounces) warm water
2 tablespoons or packets active dry yeast or 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter or vegetable oil (or a combination)
1 tablespoon salt (or less if you choose)
4 to 5 cups (17 to 21 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups dried fruit: choose from either the Celtic or the New England version (or mix the two)

Celtic Version
2/3 cup (4 ounces) golden raisins
2/3 cup (3 1/4 ounces) currants
2/3 cup (4 ounces) chopped peel (orange, lemon, citron, etc.)

New England Version
2/3 cup cranberries, chopped in half
2/3 cup (4 ounces) golden raisins
2/3 cup (3 1/4 ounces) currants

Mixing the dough: Dissolve 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the water. Add and dissolve the yeast and dry milk. Stir in the whole wheat flour and spices. Cover and let this mixture work for 2 hours.

Preparing the fruit: While the sponge bubbles away, melt the butter over very low heat. Remove it from the heat and add the balance of the sugar and the dried fruit of your choice. After 2 hours, blend this into the sponge.

Finishing and kneading the dough: Add the salt and then the unbleached flour a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it begins to feel as if it belongs together. Let it rest while you clean and grease your bowl. Continue kneading the relaxed dough until it feels smooth and springy.

Rising: Form dough into a ball, place it in the greased bowl, turning it so the top is greased, cover and place it where it will be warm and cozy. Because this is a sweet dough, we are using double the amount of yeast. Even so, the rising period may take longer than usual, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Shaping and rising: When you can poke your finger in the dough without it bouncing back, knock it down, turn it out onto your floured board, and knead out any stray bubbles.

You can divide this dough in two pieces and bake it in two bread pans or bake it as two round free-form loaves. For a grander offering, bake it as one large round loaf. Place the shaped dough in lightly greased bread pans or on a baking sheet. Let the dough rise until almost doubled again.

Baking: Fifteen minutes before you bake the bread, preheat your oven.

Two loaves: Preheat to 350°F and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

One large loaf: Preheat your oven to 400°F. Bake for 1 hour, lowering the temperature 25°F after the first 15 minutes and every 15 minutes thereafter (your final baking temperature should be 325°F).

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 1, November 1991 issue.


  • star rating 11/19/2012
  • nw from MD
  • this was r e a l l y dense and on the dry side. it lacked flavor even with the 1 T of salt and the added fruit didn't make a bit of difference. a waste of time and money :(
  • star rating 11/12/2011
  • Nicole from Prescott, AZ
  • DEEE-licious!!!! This is one of my very favorite breads for Thanksgiving. I first made it in 2008 & have made it every year since. Yes it takes some time but it makes such a huge loaf & is so incredibly delicious that it is well worth the time. If you are looking for a recipe that brings the flavors & feelings of the holidays into your mouth, this is it!!! If you make one large loaf, you will impress even yourself with how beautiful of a loaf it is! Be sure to cover it with foil for the final 20 or so minutes of baking as it tends to get too brown when its in the oven for an hour or more. Enjoy!!
  • star rating 11/26/2010
  • jill@trends from KAF Community
  • Yes, it takes a long time, but it is really worth the effort. I made it as one big loaf - might do two smaller ones next time - and there WILL be a next time soon! Wonderful flavor with cranberries, yellow raisins and currents. Be careful not to leave it in the oven too long because the crust gets hard. Will make it with half-and-half - regular whole wheat and white whole wheat - next, to lighten it up a bit. Have patience, it really will rise but it takes time. If you have anything left over, it makes scrumptious toast.
  • star rating 10/10/2009
  • Georgia from Illinois
  • Five stars with an asterisk - make sure you have plenty of time. I started it at 7:00 p.m. and didn't finish until after 1:00 a.m. It is delicious, though, and well worth the time for a special occasion. I didn't care for either of the dried fruit versions so made my own "midwestern version" with apples, pears, apricots and cranberries. I plan to make it again for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Family and guests will know you love them when you set out this bread!
  • star rating 12/30/2008
  • AJ from Hollywood, FL
  • This recipe was easy. but you had to allow a LOT of time for all the rising. I made a mistake of using lemon & orange peel because I do not like citron, but it still tasted of citron. The next time I will use cranberries instead. Also I added double the curants and raisins because I felt that there was a serious lack of fruit for 2 loaves. I am sure that the recipe was accurate. I guess I just could not help tweaking it a bit. Still, the directions were very explicit and easy to follow. The bread turned out great even though my firends said that the lemon peel reminded them of the "dreaded" fruitcake taste of citron. I will make it again and substitute different fruits for the citron and lemon and orange peels