I had planned for the weekend's weather. I had been looking and seeing that rain on Saturday, that sun on Sunday and in planning for that day of rain I had been reading and I had been deciding.
I would leave the house briefly for a quick walk to the shops, I would watch the first two episodes of American Idol (I can't resist it, it's hopeless), and then, I would do something that I haven't done since moving to London, I would bake bread.
I made a resolution to make more bread for 2010, turns out it was one of the easiest resolutions I have ever made.
One loaf and I am done.
One loaf and I remember why this feels good, the moment of concern that it won't rise, the growing delight when you see that yes it will and yes it has, the fun of punching it down and forming the loaf, watching it bake, tapping the base to see if it is done and listening to the hollow affirming answer, the first slice spread with butter, the toast...
I think you get the gist?
This recipe came from one of my first book purchases of 2010, Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. It combines sweet and savoury baked treats from around the world with baklava, paratha, pide, sachertorte, moon cakes and, the one I am most excited about, engadiner nusstorte.
But I'll save that for another day.
In the meantime...
FRUIT LOAF (from Warm Bread and Honey Cake. The glaze is just a little extra something suggested in one of the River Cottage books.)
350g / 12oz / 2 1/3 cups strong white (bread) flour
1 1/4 tsp easy-blend (active dry) yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom or zest of 1/2 lemon
55g / 2oz / 1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg, beaten
about 150m/5fl oz/2/3 cup milk, warmed
100g/ 3 1/2oz / 2/3 cup currants
55g / 2oz / 1/3cup sultanas (golden raisins)
2tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp candied orange peel
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Place all the ingredients except the fruit in a large bowl. Mix to moisten the dry ingredients and knead thoroughly until smooth and supple. This may be done by hand or using a mixer fitted with a dough hook, to make a soft dough. Bring the dough together in a ball, then cover the bowl with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a damp dish towel, and set aside in a warm, draught-free place until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, rinse the currants and sultanas in hot water. Drain the fruit, then pat dry with paper towels and leave in a warm place with the cranberries and orange peel until needed.
Knock back the risen dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead the fruit thoroughly into the dough. Roll or flatten the dough into a rectangle that is as wide as your tin is long, and about 1cm/1.2in thick. Roll up the dough, starting at a short side, and pinch the seam to seal.
Grease a 450g/1lb loaf tin. Place the dough roll seam-side down in the tin and remove any loose fruit from the surface, or it will burn while baking. Cover the loaf loosely with lightly oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm, draught-free place until almost doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. To test, remove the loaf from the tin. Tap sharply on the top and bottom; it should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.
If you would like to add a sugary glaze just heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Bring it to simmering point briefly and then brush the glaze over the top and sides of the loaf while it cools.