Plum Bread is a traditional Lincolnshire treat for breakfast or tea. A clue to the speciality's antiquity lies in the name. Plum is a very old term for dried fruit and raisins; there are no actual plums in the bread. Some cooks make Lincolnshire plum bread without yeast so that it is more like a cake. That is the version we sampled and have attempted to recreate here:
Preheat the oven to 275°F (140°C , Gas Mark 1). Butter and flour three, 1 pound loaf pans or line with baking parchment.
- 2lb (7 1/4 cups)self-raising flour*
- 1lb castor or superfine sugar
- 1 tsp of allspice or 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon and ground nutmeg
- 1/2lb lightly salted butter
- 1lb currants
- 1lb sultanas or golden raisins
- 1/4lb mixed peel
- cup of cold, strong black tea, preferably Earl Grey
- three large eggs
- 1-2 cups milk
- About an hour ahead, plump the currants and raisin in cold tea. Add more if necessary. Just before mixing ingredients, drain the fruit, reserving the liquid.
- In a large mixing bowl, rub together the flour and butter until it resembles coarse meal.
- Add the sugar, drained currants and raisins and dried peel and mix lightly.
- In a pint-sized measuring cup, beat together the eggs and drained tea. Add enough milk to bring the liquid to 2 1/2 cups in total.
- Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.
- Pour into the prepared loaf pans and bake in the middle shelf of the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. The plum bread is ready when the top feels firm and a knife inserted into it comes out clean.
- Cool on racks and serve with butter or jam and cheese.
*To replace British self-raising flour with American all-purpose flour, subtract 2 tsp of flour from each cup and replace with 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.