This challenge was for a sweet yeasted bread, traditionally served at teatime, often flavored with fruits and spices. It could be either freeform or baked in a tin, but Mary Berry specified that it should be evenly baked and full of flavor! She also suggested that, in order to complete the bake within the three-hour time limit, the bakers should make them in one-pound tins. Since I’m not timing my bake, however, I chose to make a two-pound loaf.
One of the topics of discussion on this episode of The Great British Bake Off was whether the fruit and nuts should be added to the dough before or after the first proof. I’ve always added them when mixing the dough, but apparently that can inhibit the first rise, so I decided to try adding it when kneading the dough after the first rise. Interestingly, when I researched this online, I couldn’t find a definitive answer for which is better. Even Paul Hollywood uses both methods in his cookbook, How to Bake.
My loaf is a cherry and chocolate chip bread. I used glacé cherries to try and recreate the flavors of one of my mom’s favorite confections, chocolate-covered cherries, in a tea bread. I added a hint of cinnamon to enhance the chocolate flavor and a touch of almond extract to enhance the flavor of the cherries. To top it off, I used a little Amarena cherry juice, which had been sitting in the back of the fridge since I made my black-and-white forest gâteau, to make a cherry almond glaze.
I started with a recipe I found here for a hot cross bun loaf, because I knew that was the texture I was going for. I switched around the fruits and spices but otherwise stuck to the same ingredients. As I mentioned before, I also changed up the method a bit, adding the chocolate and cherries after the first proof. I was a bit disappointed because I don’t think the fruit/chocolate was as evenly distributed as it would have been if I had added it with the rest of the ingredients, but I guess I can only blame myself for that.
The loaf turned out much bigger than I had imagined it would. In the future, I might divide the dough into two smaller loaves (like Mary suggested), but otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing. This bread does make a great teatime snack (or even breakfast) with a schmear of butter and a mug of coffee. If you want to be really decadent, slather it with Nutella and have it for dessert!
Cherry Chocolate Chip Tea Loaf
- 1-1¼ c. milk
- 4 c. bread flour
- 1/3 c. sugar
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 3¾ t. yeast
- 1½ t. salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 T. butter, melted
- 2 t. almond extract, divided
- ¾ c. glacé cherries, halved (plus a few extra for decoration)
- 2/3 c. chocolate chips
- 2 T. cherry juice*
- 1 c. powdered sugar
- 1-2 T. hot water, if needed
- Heat the milk till warm, between 120°F and 130°F.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other. Mix those dry ingredients together.
- Add the egg, butter, 1 teaspoon almond extract and half of the milk.
- Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough until it comes together in a glossy, elastic, slightly tacky ball. Gradually add more milk to form a soft, pliable dough. (You may only need 1 cup of milk.) At this point, you can add the cherries and chocolate chips, or you can wait until after the first proof. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and silky.
- Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning the ball of dough once to make sure it’s coated in oil. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp dish towel and leave in a warm place to prove for 1½ to 2 hours until doubled in size.
- Lightly grease a 4½-by-8½-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil and set aside.
- When the dough has risen, turn it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and push the air out, flattening the dough. If you didn’t add the cherries and chocolate chips earlier, spread them out onto the surface of the flattened dough and fold the dough over on itself, kneading gently until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Then form the dough into a loaf by forming a ball and then patting it into the greased loaf pan.
- Cover with the damp dish towel again and leave to prove until doubled in size again, 1 to 1½ hours. While the dough is proving, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. If the top starts to get too brown, tent the loaf with foil while it finishes baking.
- When it’s done, remove the bread from the pan and leave it to cool on a wire rack. After it’s cooled completely, stir the cherry juice and remaining 1 teaspoon almond extract into the powdered sugar, stirring until it forms a thick icing, the consistency of paste. If it’s too thick, add a tablespoon or two of hot water, stirring until it’s the right consistency. Spread on top of the bread, letting it drip down the sides. Decorate with extra glacé cherries, if desired.
*I used the juice from a jar of Amarena cherries, but you can also use regular cherry juice or even a little cherry jam that’s been melted in the microwave.