Planning Thanksgiving? I love recipes I can make ahead of the day!
I’ve been waiting ever since last Christmas to give you this mouth-watering family Bishop’s Bread recipe which I served along with my fabulous slow-roasted stress-free turkey.
And just in case you think this Bishop’s bread is your grandmother’s typical fruitcake, think again!
My Mama’s Dutch-inspired chocolate-cranberry Bishop’s bread is far from the fruit cakes people make jokes about and pass onto relatives year after year.
My mom would make this exact Bishop’s Bread for company and get rave reviews and multiple requests for her recipe. She was given the recipe in the Netherlands in the 50s by my Aunt Ria. As something to pass along to our new little family, she wrote this recipe out for me back in 1973 just after we were married. I used to make it a lot and friends and family loved it, but then I somehow forgot about it through the high school years of homeschooling.
As a girl I was a compliant soul and would take a bite of someone’s prized fruitcake just to be kind. But no. I never have liked it and never will.
So when I found Mom’s beautiful Bishop’s Bread recipe again, I had to smile with excitement remembering it wasn’t a fruitcake.
No, not at all.
You know how some foods are just so much better after several days of the flavors marrying and blending together? Well, this sweet dessert bread is one of those. It is scrumptious especially served warm so the chocolate is all melted! The crust on top is slightly crispy and the bready inside has ooey-gooey chocolate, walnuts (which you can omit) and sweet-tart cranberries (or tart pitted cherries) with honey and date for just the right (not too sweet) sweetness.
Bishop’s bread is addictive. We still have such good memories of us all taking turns whittling off another small slice one after the other…
Mama’s Chocolate Cranberry Bishop’s Bread Recipe
1 1/2 cups King Arthur’s whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
2/3 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (or Lily’s dark chocolate chips like these) You can find Lily’s in most groceries now.
1 cup sugar (I use 3/4 cup honey or raw sugar, and for us, it is plenty sweet)
2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans (yes, that’s 2 cups!)
1 cup chopped dates
1 3/4 – 2 cups fresh cranberries, halved- adding only a hint of tart)
There is NO oil in this recipe!
1.) Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2.) Stir cut-up fruit and chopped nuts into flour mixture to coat.
3.) Incorporate sweetener and eggs.
4.) Before you go further, line 10 x 5 x 3 loaf pan or a 7 1/2 – 8″ round casserole dish with parchment or wax paper and dot with butter or solid coconut oil so it will come out clean.
Now this is where it gets fun:
5.) Mix as much as you can with a heavy spoon; at one point, it will become pretty hard to stir.
6.) Taking the mass into your hands, squish and knead just enough to fully blend.
7.) You will be able to form a ball and drop it into your parchment-lined (or greased) baking dish.
8.) Cut tall edges off parchment (so they don’t smoke)
9.) Bake 55-60 minutes (depending on your oven) at 350 degrees.
Serve warm with coffee, hot tea or cold, whole milk like we had it when I was a girl!
3 Bishop’s Bread Versions:
1.) Bake it immediately.
2.) Make it up a week ahead and bake it when you need it. I simply put it in the parchment-lined (or greased) baking dish, (cover it with a trimmed piece of parchment as in my photo below) or wrap the whole dish well with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for the flavors to blend. It becomes a bit like a mild European sourdough, and the flavors just get more nutty and fruity and chocolaty!
Note: I have waited once 10 days before baking, and it was wonderful, just very slightly fermented as wheat will do.
Then when we have spontaneous friends knock on our door, I have this pretty bread to serve hot right out of the oven. It also makes the whole house smell amazing. Either way, bake it immediately once you make the dough or later within a week.
3.) Rum Version:
As above, the dough can be made up 1 week before time to bake it.
- Once it is in the baking pan, prick the top of the finished dough 12-15 times with a toothpick
- Pour a 1/4 cup of regular or spiced rum over the cake. You can still wait to bake it
- It also will keep well for a week refrigerated, covered, baked or unbaked
History of Bishop’s Bread
Melissa Bowen, a research librarian at the culinary University Johnson & Wales, did some digging in the school’s vast resources and found that there is a reference to a traditional Slovakian Christmas cake – a loaf bread – called Bishop’s Bread or Biskupsky Chlebicek. It has fruit, nuts and – surprise – sometimes chocolate.
She also found a website that mentions a story about the bread much like the Bishop’s Bread served to circuit-riding preachers in the days of early America. Those stories shed a little light on the name, but there still seems to be some confusion about whether the bread/cake contains chocolate.
Once we get settled down after Thanksgiving, we will be making triple the recipe as one of our Christmas traditions.
Yes, it is bread-shaped, keeps refrigerated for weeks like fruitcake, but it for sure isn’t fruitcake. I promise!
You, too, will became a Bishop’s Bread convert from the first taste, especially if you are a chocolate lover.
“Go, eat your bread with joy…” ~Ecclesiastes 9: 7
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Now this is a new recipe for sure. Never heard of it. Looks yummy!!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and yours!!
You mention coconut oil in the directions but I see no oil in the ingredients…:)
Oh, dear! Doris, would you be my editor? That’s what happens when you are taking care of grandpa in his home almost 3 hours away and trying to serve a full-blown Thanksgiving meal there in the car for a big family ;-/
I don’t add oil, though one could add 1/4 cup. It is best without.
So sorry, y’all! Thanks for your patience!! Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
I see you mention coconut oil in the directions but I don’t see it listed in the ingredients. How much did you use? Looks great, I’d love to make this!!
Allison, same thing as I wrote to Jeanette. I don’t use coconut oil for this recipe. Blessings!
Hi. Can you please tell me how much coconut oil is in this recipe. It is listed in the directions but not the ingredients and I am trying to make this today. Did you mean chocolate chips instead of coconut oil as that isn’t mentioned when to add those? Thanks for your help!
I am just seeing this! Oops – my mistake! I don’t use any oil…what was I thinking? I’m so sorry if it has caused confusion. You can use coconut oil, but I deleted it b/c it wasn’t necessary and added to the overall cost of the bread. Hope you LOVE it, too!
Looks delicious! Mjammie. I want to make it but without the berries. Cranberries are so expensive here in Nederlands. I think I’ll to use colored candied peel. In bright colors green, yellow or red.
Jedidja, I can’t wait to bake this!! I like your idea, too!!
Have a blessed joyful Thanksgiving!
What is the longest you have kept the loaf in the fridge before baking? I’m gathering everything up for this, and we are hoping to have a Christmas ladies tea for the women in our family, so this would be just perfect the kids and I to make before hand. I’m really looking forward to trying it!
Hi, Christina 🙂
I have kept it for 3 weeks twice. It was a beautiful presentation. Do keep and eye on it after the first 60 minutes and test it with a toothpick for done-ness. I hope it is fun for the children and that the tea is a lovely success! If you are unsure about the 3 week length of time, just make it sometime a week before. Have fun!
Blessings, peace, and grace to you 🙂
Thank you for the information on the oil ~ understand perfectly how that can happen, cared for my mother for 4 years with Alzheimer’s and things do ‘happen’. 🙂
oh, my, that looks good!
Looks yummy, and it is very pretty! Featured you on Mom’s Library this week!
Thank you, Ashley!! That makes my day 🙂
Blessings to you and your sweet family!
This bread looks delicious and a perfect addition to your Christmas table! Thanks for sharing on the HomeAcre Hop. Hope to see you again tomorrow! – Nancy
The Home Acre Hop
I believe this recipe should be baking soda not baking powder as listed in the required ingredients. Also I used cherry/cranberry pie filling with a cup and a half of fresh cranberries when I doubled the recipe
Hi, Judy! I think you can do either. Most of the recipes I’ve looked at, though, recommend baking powder. Here is one of them: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/christmas-bishop-s-bread
Thanks! I know you’ll love it!
This sounds good! I make a fruit/nut “bread” at Christmas time also. I’m going give you the recipe–even though you already like yours–but you might be interested in trying it sometime. It is really good!
2 c cut up, dried apricots
1 c dried pineapple bits (I just cut up the dried rings)
1 c dried cranberries
4 1/2 c raw slightly chopped nuts (mixture of walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews…)
3/4 c flour
3/4 c sugar (can use less sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
Then mix with fruit/nut mixture
3 eggs/ 1 tsp vanilla
Mix egg mixture with fruit/nuts/flour until well-coated.
Grease well and line with wax paper–
Bread pans OR
Muffin or mini-muffin tins (don’t have to use wax paper)
Press firmly into pans so it holds together.
Bake 300 for 1 1/2 hours if using large bread pans
35-50 minutes for other sizes or until golden brown. Don’t overbake
That’s the original recipe.
I’ve used some dates/raisins in place of some dried fruit–though usually use at least some of the pineapple/apricots/cranberries combination.
Wow! Sue, that makes my mouth water with anticipation! I love the holidays and they aren’t the same without special breads like this! It kind of reminds me of a heavy cake I had as a child in Holland, and it was a favorite of my father. Thank you for taking the time to share it with readers 😀
Can I use dried cranberries instead of fresh?
Hi, Debbie! Yes! I am making mine tonight, too!! Just add a little extra liquid (not much) to compensated for the dryness! It will be great! ~J
How much extra liquid..I’m planning on making tomorrow.
I am sorry, I didn’t see this until just now, Debbie! Maybe a teaspoon or just a smidgen more. For 1 1/2 – 2 c. cranberries, 1- 1 1/2 tsp. would be all I would use, but use your intuition. It will keep it from being too dry! Better too moist and keep in the oven a bit longer than too dry (and you can’t undo that)! 😀
Praying it is perfection, Debbie! ~J
My daughter and I made this as a gift to my dear dad for Christmas. He and I LOVED it! I am now about to type the recipe to put into my favorite recipes binder. I just noticed that in the ingredients it says “baking powder” but in the directions it says “baking soda”. I can’t remember what I used when I made it. Which one is it (or perhaps it doesn’t make a difference)?
Thank you so much!
Dorene, I am so happy that it was a blessing and enjoyed by your dad!
I will check that out as I don’t remember right off the top of my head!
Blessings and love,
Thank you, Jacqueline! I’d appreciate that as I am planning on making again for another gift.
Dorene, I just pulled out my recipe, and it is baking powder. I did change it in the directions!
Great! Thanks sooo much, Jacqueline. This cake is seriously yummy! Love the combination of flavors.
Thank you again!
Has anyone made this with egg replacer? 4 eggs is a lot to replace but I can’t do eggs and this looks so good!
Hi, Janet, I have not tried egg replacer, but I bet it would be great! It is a very forgiving bread! <3
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! I definitely want to try it — just didn’t want to waste ingredients. Blessings! 🙂
I thought I would update my no-egg experiment in case anyone else wants to try it without eggs. At Christmas time I used Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer and it turned out OK — a little flat and ‘gooey’ (I may not have baked it long enough.) Yesterday I made the bread (because it’s below zero outside and a great baking day! 😉 with JUST egg liquid plant-based ‘eggs’. It turned out great! This time I didn’t have any chocolate chips and added dried apples and it is really good.
Janet! I love that you shared your “experiment’ with us! And it blesses me that you love this recipe enought to figure out how to make it without eggs!
Yes, it is very cold here and so I may just have to bake tomorrow, too!
Sending peace, friend!
I finally got to the grocery store to buy cranberries, and was lucky I got some! End of season and they were only 50 cents!
Made this bread today and it is to die for!! Even hubby, who doesn’t really care for quick breads, thought it was yummy! I grind my own flour in my Vita Mix, but made it with no other substitutions. I used honey in it and mixed it in my Bosch mixer using the dough attachment, which worked well. I baked it in a 9X5 bread pan, lined with waxed paper, and that was fine. This one is a definite keeper! Thanks for posting it!
Yay!!! Pat, that makes me so happy!
I do love my mama’s Bishop’s Bread and didn’t get to make it this year! Boo hoo 🙁
So enjoy some for me and Happy New Year!
Thanks for sharing that with me! Makes my day!