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 soda, 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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