Monday, December 3, 2007

Bishop's Bread - a Christmas keeper - and this is NOT fruitcake!


I've been waiting for months and months to give you this recipe. Since I only make this at Christmas-time, I didn't think it appropriate to share it when the temps outside were in the 90's. Although this is not my original recipe, I will tell you I've been making this for about 40 years, and this is one of those recipes - if you're a regular reader of my blog - that I say - "now, listen up! I'm about to share something important." Hence it is. Important.

My mother's friend Mary gave me this recipe, back in about 1969 or 1970. We had a group of us - 4 women: my mother, Fay, and two of her friends, Esther and Mary, both near her age. And me. We played the Japanese version of Mah Jong about every 2 weeks or so, and one of us provided lunch. It had to coincide with when my daughter, Dana, went down for her nap, so more often than not, it was at my house. After eating the repast we'd then play the game for a couple of hours.

So, Mary brought this, one Mah Jong day, when it was close to Christmas. My mother (and dad both) liked fruitcake. But I never did. Still don't. I've been known to try a nibble, with somebody's prized recipe, thinking that maybe my taste buds have changed, that I've matured somehow. Or that somebody has found some unique new way to make fruitcake palatable. Sorry. No. I still don't like fruitcake. I detest citron, and anything close to it. So, when Mary brought this over, explaining that it was something like fruitcake, I was suspicious. However, she quickly said she didn't like fruitcake, either. Oh good. I became a bishop's bread convert from the first bite. SO:
  • I do like maraschino cherries. Certainly I don't eat them 11 months of the year. I mean, where do we ever even SEE maraschino cherries anymore except on some caterer's platter or in a Shirley Temple. I went through a stage in the 1970's when red dye was an anathema, but that didn't keep me from making bishop's bread, I'm sorry to say. So much for my dedication to the shrine of a healthy body! But now they don't use the bad red dye (supposedly), so I hope that since this is only consumed by me for these few, short weeks, maybe I'll live another day.
    And, I like chocolate too. You all already know that. You can use Nestle's chips, or cut up your own, or use some other brand. The better the brand the better the bread. You could use milk chocolate too, I suppose.
  • And, I like walnuts.
  • But, I don't like fruitcake.
  • Enter, ta da: Bishop's Bread!
So, on to this recipe. If you're going to be a stickler for detail, I suppose this does bear some resemblance to fruitcake - it has a similar consistency - chunks of goodies glued together with a basic cake recipe. Kind of like pound cake. But, instead of citron and dried fruit (lemon, lime, orange, red candied cherries, dates, figs, etc) this has nothing but chocolate chips, walnuts and maraschino cherries. The cherries maintain their moistness, and you combine them with walnuts and chocolate, and it's a marriage made in heaven, I say. Yes, it's a bread-like shape, and you slice it like fruitcake, but it isn't. I promise. On my honor.

(left to right: cutting up the maraschino cherries with scissors, and clad in plastic gloves [or buy them already halved at Smart & Final], 4 cups of cherries, the goodies mixed with the dry ingredients, the finished batter mixed up and ready to pour)

You can bake it in bread pans, so you'll have just one loaf using the recipe below. Or, if you're a Bishop's Bread lover, then you bake in large quantity. Today I made a quadruple batch. It would make 4 bread pans full, but I had some smaller, cute little cardboard ones that are perfect for giving away (picture above). I made seven of them and one loaf pan. I'll keep the loaf sized one and very judiciously give away the others. Only to very special friends. You can interchange nuts if you'd prefer something different. And if you don't like maraschino, then substitute apricots, perhaps, or dried cranberries maybe. But it won't be the same.

Over the years I've tried to find out the history of this bread/cake. The internet hasn't been of much help other than to give me several similar recipes (purportedly dating to the 1950's) with candied cherries, sometimes almonds or pecans, chocolate, and dates. I did see a couple with maraschino cherries, so this must have been somebody's interpretation. Obviously, the way-back origin must be religious in some way with the word "bishop" in the title. I did find this, though:
  • Any purchased or homemade cake decorated with the bishop's name and a tiny mitre can be used on the feast of a bishop-saint, the traditional cake is Bischofsbrot or "Bishop's Bread." (this was from a Catholic Church website)
It probably did have candied cherries in it at one time. Whatever it is, I adore this bread. And if you're a regular reader of my blog, and you like my recipes, then I sincerely request that you make this bread. Post Haste.

Bishop's Bread
Recipe: Mary Wilfert
Servings: 20 (slices)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
2 cups walnuts -- chopped
1 cup maraschino cherries -- drained, halved [or buy them in a great big jar at Smart & Final where they're already halved for you]
3 whole eggs
1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease a bread pan and line the bottom with waxed paper (yes, it's important). Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add chocolate chips, walnuts and cherries and stir to coat the cherries.
2. With mixer, combine eggs and sugar, add to flour mixture and stir gently, but well, until combined. You don't want to see any pockets of dry flour. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 90 minutes. Test to make sure it's done. If baking in smaller pans, start checking for doneness at 60 minutes. Continue baking as needed and test at 5-minute intervals. Remove pan to a rack and allow to cool in the pan. When cool, remove and wrap well, or place in plastic bags and refrigerate.
Per Serving: 255 Calories; 13g Fat (42.8% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 82mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 1/2 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

6 comments:

ThursdayNext said...

I cannot get over this recipe...it sounds like the perfect dessert for Christmas. It also seems versatile and I am seriously wondering how this would be in a simple trifle - layered with some vanilla pudding in a trifle bowl and then topped with chocolate shavings. Or would this pair better with ice cream? Thoughts? I am scheduled to make a trifle for Christmas day and want to break away from my usual...would this work?

Carolyn T said...

Hmmm. I don't know about the trifle idea. If you can picture using a dense kind of bread (well, like date nut bread, for instance), that kind of heaviness, then it might work. If you sliced the bishop's bread quite thin it might work. And I wouldn't make the vanilla pudding/sauce all that sweet - under sweeten it, I'd think. You could always add more sugar later if you took a taste of the bread with the pudding. And some whipped cream to cut the richness? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

This bread is the best!!! I am so lucky to be a recipient of the few loaves my mom makes, I wish I had taken two loaves. This is the best. I don't like fruitcake either.

Book Group Friend said...

This is a great recipe. I served it recently and got rave reviews. It looks so pretty thinly sliced on a Christmassy plate. If you have any left overs, it stays moist for quite awhile. So make sure to save some for yourself!!

Carolyn T said...

I still have one loaf left. I think I'll keep it hidden in the refrigerator until awhile after Christmas. I'm already on food overload with the parties, dinners, etc. we've been going to. But I agree, it's good stuff!

Anonymous said...

You don't always have to make it as an actual bread loaf shape. My mother has been placing the batter in cupcake tins for years. It cooks faster and is perfectly portioned.