grandmother recipe: grammy’s bishop’s bread {modern/vintage}

I hadn’t heard of Bishop’s Bread until a few weeks ago.  I was asking mom about some of Grammy’s (Virginia’s) famous Christmas recipes.  See, we always spent Christmas Eve at Mudder’s (Geraldine’s) home with my paternal family.  We’d occasionally have a Christmas gathering at Grammy and Grandaddy’s home, but usually they would drive up to see us on Christmas day in our home.  Sadly I didn’t have many culinary memories from Grammy’s at Christmastime.  (Don’t worry, I have plenty of other food memories with her, including our yearly Thanksgiving feast.)


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Mom told me that this recipe was the one she requested be made every year of her childhood.  Mom assured me it was probably because it included chocolate chips.  Good call, childhood Trisha.

I received the recipe from mom earlier this week and started to mull it over.  I have a MAJOR aversion to candied cherries.  You know what I’m talking about.  Those unnaturally colored, sugar saturated, jewels of grossness usually found studding a Christmas fruitcake.  I just don’t care for them.  I love dried fruits though, so I decided to make an executive decision and create a modern version of Bishop’s Bread using dried cherries instead.

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Lest I worry too much about tampering with an an age old recipe,  I noticed an edit that Grammy made to the recipe.  The original recipe didn’t call for any fats, but Grammy apparently disagreed and wrote on the news clipping that the recipe needed one stick of “oleo” (margarine, but for our purposes: butter).  Henceforth I didn’t feel so bad about tampering with the classic.  Of course she also didn’t include any information for the method of adding said butter, so I had to experiment with it.  I determined that a creaming method would be best instead of adding melted butter.

(I pretended I was a contestant on the Great British Baking Show doing one of the technical challenges. If you haven’t watched it yet, get thee to Netflix.  It’s amazing.)

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I did a little research on the origin of the Bishop’s Bread (also called Bishop’s Cake.)  There was very little to be found.  Some people said the cake was named such because the slices resembled a stained glass window.  Some other sites said it was a certain (unnamed) Catholic Bishop’s favorite cake.

Considering that my Grandmother was a Bishop-less devout Baptist,  I think the origin certainly had no bearing on Grammy’s affinity for this cake.  It was just a good recipe she found in the recipe section of the paper!

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I hear your mutterings.  I know.  It looks a LOT like a fruitcake.  From my research it is reiterated that this bread is certainly NOT a fruitcake.  I’m not on team anti-fruitcake.  I think with high quality dried fruits that a cake involving fruits and nuts isn’t half bad.  (And some year I’ll make Mudder’s recipe for fermented fruitcake for Christmas.) Call it a fruitcake if you will, but I promise it’s on a different plane.

This really is something different.  Plus- it has CHOCOLATE.

Give this recipe a try this year and see if it pairs well with Christmas morning coffee and a pile of presents.

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Grammy’s Bishop’s Bread:

  • 1 1/2 Cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 cups of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped pecans (the recipe called for walnuts, but I’m a pecan snob.)
  • 1 cup snipped pitted dates
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease two loaf pans with butter or shortening (yes, the recipe calls for one, but it was too much batter).  Line loaf pans with parchment paper slings and grease the paper.

Wisk together well the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Then add the chocolate, dried fruits, and nuts to the flour mixture mixing well to coat the pieces with flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment- cream together the butter and sugar.  Then add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Beat on medium for 2 minutes.

Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed until incorporated.  Use a spoon to ensure the mixture is evenly incorporated.

Distribute into two loaf pans and bake at 325 degrees for one hour.   Allow to cool completely before slicing or storing.  Slice thinly with a serrated knife.

Enjoy, y’all.  And Merry Christmas!

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