Yule Bread from Anne Willan of La Varenne
This is the bread that Anne Willan was rhapsodizing about in our interview. According to Anne it is one of those perfect recipes that works every time, has a perfect flavor balance and should not be tampered with – so we suggest following her to the letter. You will be rewarded with a fragrant, moist yeast bread redolent with cinnamon and cloves and dotted with plump raisins and currants and the zesty tang of candied orange peel. It is from her book, Real Food : Fifty Years of Good Eating. Make sure to also read her recipe for the most amazing apple terrine dessert you have ever seen (Marc Meneau’s Apple Gâteau). Here below you can see how Anne has set up her miss en place for her Yule Bread preparation – or as she put it in our interview, their “assault on Yule Bread”. Looks like at least 8 batches happening! Lucky friends.
In Anne’s words:
Yule Bread is delicious for breakfast, toasted or plain and spread with butter, though in its native Yorkshire it is served for afternoon tea.
Equipment: 9 x 5 x 4 inch loaf pan
- 1½ cups water
- ⅔ cup raisins
- ⅔ cup dried currants
- 4 cups flour, more if needed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup unsalted butter, creamed
- ⅓ cup chopped, candied orange peel
- 1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm milk (for glaze)
- Bring water to a boil, pour half over raisins and currants and leave to soak. Let remaining water cool to tepid. Sift flour into a bowl with salt, cinnamon and cloves and stir in sugar. Make a well in the center and add tepid water with water drained from fruits. Crumble or sprinkle yeast over water and leave 5 minutes or until dissolved. Add eggs and, with your hand, gradually mix in flour. If necessary add more flour to form a smooth dough that is soft but not sticky.
- Transfer dough to an electric mixer bowl and knead until elastic using the dough hook, 5-7 minutes. Put dough in an oiled bowl, turning it so the top is oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 2-3 hours
- Butter the loaf pan. Return dough to the mixer bowl and add creamed butter. Beat with dough hook at medium speed until butter is mixed and dough is smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add soaked fruit and candied peel and mix at low speed until incorporated.
- To shape loaf, turn dough onto a floured work surface. Pat it out with your fist to a rectangle 9 inches wide. Roll dough into a cylinder, pinch edge to seal, then drop carefully into loaf pan, seam side down. Cover loosely and leave to rise until pan is full, 1½-2 hours.
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Brush loaf with glaze and bake for 20 minutes. Brush again, lower heat to 350° and continue baking until the loaf sounds hollow when unmolded and tapped on bottom, 30-40 minutes. Transfer it to a rack to cool. Yule Bread can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month, and the flavor matures. It can also be frozen.