Spotted Dick. Spotted Dog. Railway Cake. Spotted Richard. This unusual bread is known by several different names, yet eats the same. I did a bit of research while coming up with this recipe and found a million variations. I also realize the recipe published here is not traditional (impostor!) and the purists just might faint at my use of dates and lack of suet. Whatever you chose to call it, this sweet loaf will make an afternoon snack you'll love.
The crust on the bread is crunchy and sweet. The raisins and dates lend a chewiness to the somewhat dense bread. Spotted Dick is delicious toasted with butter or jam, spread with cream cheese, or eaten right out of hand. It doesn't keep very well so plan on consuming within a day or so. Any stale leftovers are fantastic in bread pudding. Feel free to add cinnamon and/or nutmeg to "Americanize" it.
1 lb. unbleached flour (about 4 c.)
3 T. sugar, divided
1-1/2 t. baking soda (make sure it's fresh!)
1-1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. chopped dates
1-1/2 - 2 c. (about 1 pint) buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450*. Do not start mixing until the oven is at temp.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, 2 T. sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add raisins and dates and mix well. In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk egg and enough buttermilk to reach the 2-cup line.
Form a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in 1-1/2 c. buttermilk mixture. Using your hands, bring the flour into the center and mix with the wet ingredients. Quickly and lightly work into a dough, adding more buttermilk/egg mixture or flour as necessary to form a soft, moist dough.
Once the dough has formed, do not knead it or handle it much. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and shape into a round disk 2-3" tall. Brush top with some remaining buttermilk/egg mixture and sprinkle with remaining 1 T. sugar. Cut a deep X into top of loaf.
Immediately place in oven. After 5 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 400*. Bake 25 additional minutes. Check to see if the bread is done by tapping on the bottom of the loaf. If it is done, it will sound hollow.