This recipe was copied from the Ipswich Journal into the manuscript book from a Norfolk household in the early 19th century. The manuscript was eventually purchased by the Wellcome Library and its contents digitised and made available online, which is where I discovered it. It was the simplicity of the recipe that appealed – just 3 ingredients: Flour, yeast, apples. I immediately mixed up a batch and was delighted with the results – a lovely open textured bread with a bite/chew similar to sourdough, but with a delicate, underlying sweetness which, when toasted, almost tasted like honey. It went brilliantly, un-buttered, with some strong cheddar and a crisp apple.
To continue the week of coincidences, I later found this recipe reprinted word for word in my 1950 copy of Farmhouse Fare, recipes sent in to and collected by Farmer’s Weekly magazine. Which means that someone else copied the same recipe from the Ipswich Advertiser and kept it alive in their family for 150 years to be revived in 1950. Utterly delightful!
It’s a regular in this household – I hope you enjoy it also.
500g strong, white bread flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast or 20g fresh yeast
4 Bramley Apples
- Put the apples in a saucepan and cover with water.
- Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the apples are soft and cooked. The skins might split, but as long as the water is just simmering, the apples should hold together – fast boiling water will only get you apple soup.
- Lift the apples from the water (you might need some water later). Remove the skins and scrape the cooked apple flesh into a bowl.
- Sieve the cooked apple to make a smooth puree. If using fresh yeast, you can crumble it into the puree and whisk until thoroughly mixed.
- Put the flour and dry yeast into a bowl and stir to combine.
- Add the apple puree gradually and stir to combine into a soft dough. You should need between 250-300g of apple puree. If you need more liquid, use some of the water the apples were cooked in.
- If you have a mixer with a dough hook, work the dough for 10 minutes on the lowest speed. Otherwise, work it by hand, but be careful not to add too much flour in the kneading – you want to keep the dough nice and soft.
- Put the dough in a bowl, cover and leave the mixture to double in size.
- When sufficiently risen, tip the dough out of the bowl and knock back.
- Shape into loaves and put into a 1kg greased loaf tin.
- Cover lightly with a cloth and leave to rise for a further 30-45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped. If the bread appears cooked, but not sounding hollow, remove from the tin and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to crisp up.
- Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.