49er Christmas Bread Recipe - Traditional American Holiday Bread

49er Christmas Bread

49er Christmas Bread Recipe - Traditional American Holiday Bread
Region / culture: USA | Preparation time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 60 minutes | Servings: 2


49er Christmas Bread
49er Christmas Bread

The 49er Christmas Bread is a delightful holiday treat that brings warmth, sweetness, and a touch of tradition to the festive season. This recipe, rich in history and flavor, is a perfect blend of spices, fruits, and the tanginess of a sourdough starter, making it a unique addition to any Christmas table. Whether you're a seasoned baker or new to the world of sourdough, this bread is sure to impress with its soft texture and complex flavors.


The 49er Christmas Bread has its roots in the American West during the Gold Rush era. Miners, or '49ers', would often carry sourdough starters as a reliable leavening agent, given the scarcity of yeast. Over time, these starters became a cherished part of their culinary tradition, leading to the creation of various sourdough recipes, including this festive bread. It embodies the spirit of resilience, community, and celebration, making it a cherished recipe passed down through generations.


How to prepare

  1. Add salt, sugar, milk, eggs, melted butter, currants, and spices to the culture and mix well.
  2. Gradually add the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough becomes too stiff to mix by hand.
  3. Transfer the dough onto a floured board and knead in the remaining flour. Divide the dough in half and shape into two loaves. Place the loaves in greased loaf pans and let them rise for 1.5 to 3 hours, or until the dough rises 1 to 2 inches above the lip of the pan.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F (204°C) for 55 to 60 minutes. Allow the loaves to cool on racks.


  • Consider adding nuts such as walnuts or pecans, or substituting the raisins with dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots for a different flavor profile. You can also experiment with different spices, such as nutmeg or allspice, to tailor the bread to your taste preferences.
  • 1. Add nuts such as walnuts or pecans for added texture and flavor.
  • 2. Use dried cranberries instead of raisins for a tart twist.
  • 3. Incorporate whole wheat flour for a healthier version, keeping in mind it may result in a denser bread.
  • For a twist on the traditional recipe, consider adding chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans, for added texture. You can also substitute the raisins with dried cranberries or cherries for a different flavor profile.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

To ensure your 49er Christmas Bread turns out perfectly, here are a few tips and tricks:

- Maintain your sourdough starter at room temperature for a few days before baking to ensure it's active.

- Soak the raisins in warm water or rum to plump them up, which will add moisture and flavor to the bread.

- When kneading the dough, use a light touch to avoid overworking it, which can result in a denser bread.

- Allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free area to ensure a good rise.

- Test for doneness by tapping the bottom of the loaf – it should sound hollow when fully baked.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the 49er Christmas Bread warm with a spread of butter or a dollop of cream cheese. It also pairs beautifully with a cup of hot coffee or tea, making it a cozy addition to your holiday breakfast or brunch.

Cooking Techniques

The key technique in this recipe is the proper preparation of the sourdough starter, ensuring it's active and ready to leaven the bread. Additionally, mastering the kneading and shaping of the dough is crucial for achieving the perfect texture.

Ingredient Substitutions

If you're out of mace, nutmeg makes a good substitute. For a dairy-free version, almond milk or oat milk can replace cow's milk, and vegan butter can be used in place of regular butter.

Make Ahead Tips

The dough for 49er Christmas Bread can be prepared a day in advance and left to rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. This not only develops the flavors but also makes the baking process more manageable.

Presentation Ideas

Slice the bread and arrange it on a festive platter, garnished with sprigs of holly or dusted with powdered sugar for a snowy effect. This makes for an inviting and visually appealing holiday treat.

Pairing Recommendations

This bread pairs wonderfully with savory dishes such as roasted meats or creamy soups, balancing the meal with its sweet and spiced flavors. It also complements a variety of cheeses, making it a versatile addition to your holiday spread.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store leftover 49er Christmas Bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. To reheat, wrap the bread in foil and warm it in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 10 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

A serving of 49er Christmas Bread contains approximately 250 calories. This makes it a hearty option for breakfast or a snack, providing energy to fuel your holiday activities.


A single serving of 49er Christmas Bread contains approximately 45 grams of carbohydrates. The primary sources of carbohydrates in this recipe are flour and sugar, providing energy and a slight sweetness to the bread.


This bread contains around 5 grams of fat per serving, mainly from the eggs and milk. These fats contribute to the bread's moist texture and rich flavor.


Each serving of 49er Christmas Bread offers about 6 grams of protein, coming from the eggs, milk, and flour. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, making this bread a satisfying part of your holiday meals.

Vitamins and minerals

The 49er Christmas Bread is a source of several vitamins and minerals, including calcium from the milk, iron from the flour, and various B vitamins from the eggs and flour. These nutrients support bone health, oxygen transport, and energy production, respectively.


This recipe contains common allergens such as gluten (from flour), eggs, and milk. Individuals with allergies or sensitivities to these ingredients should exercise caution.


Overall, the 49er Christmas Bread is a moderately nutritious option that provides energy, protein, and essential nutrients. However, it should be enjoyed in moderation due to its sugar and carbohydrate content.


The 49er Christmas Bread is a festive, flavorful, and heartwarming addition to any holiday table. With its rich history, nutritional benefits, and delicious taste, it's sure to become a cherished part of your holiday traditions. Whether enjoyed fresh from the oven or as part of a festive meal, this bread brings the spirit of the season to life.

How did I get this recipe?

The first time I saw this recipe, it left a lasting impression on me. It was many years ago, back in the 1950s, when I was just a young girl learning the ways of the kitchen from my own grandmother. She was a wonderful cook, always whipping up delicious meals and baked goods that seemed to have a special touch to them.

One day, as I was helping her prepare for Christmas dinner, she pulled out an old, tattered cookbook from the shelf. It had been passed down through the generations in our family, filled with recipes that had been cherished and perfected over the years. As she flipped through the pages, her eyes landed on a recipe for 49er Christmas Bread.

"It's a recipe that has been in our family for generations," she explained, her voice filled with nostalgia. "It was passed down to me by my own grandmother, and now I want to pass it down to you."

I watched in awe as she gathered the ingredients and began to mix them together. The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air, mixing with the sweet scent of yeast and flour. As she kneaded the dough and shaped it into a loaf, I could see the love and care that went into every step.

When the bread emerged from the oven, golden brown and steaming hot, my grandmother smiled and handed me a slice. The taste was like nothing I had ever experienced before - warm and comforting, with just the right amount of sweetness and spice.

From that moment on, I was hooked. I begged my grandmother to teach me the recipe, and she gladly obliged. Over the years, I have made 49er Christmas Bread countless times, each loaf a reminder of the love and tradition that has been passed down through the generations.

I learned that the recipe was originally created by the miners who came to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. They didn't have access to fancy ingredients or equipment, so they had to make do with what they had. The result was a simple yet delicious bread that became a staple during the holiday season.

As the years passed, the recipe evolved and changed, with each family adding their own special touch. In our family, we like to add dried fruits and nuts to the dough, giving it a festive and flavorful twist.

I cherish the memories of baking 49er Christmas Bread with my grandmother, the two of us working side by side in the kitchen, our hands covered in flour and laughter filling the air. Even now, as I bake the bread on my own, I can still feel her presence beside me, guiding me through each step and offering words of wisdom.

The tradition of making 49er Christmas Bread has been passed down to my own children and grandchildren, each one eager to learn the secrets of this special recipe. It warms my heart to see them carrying on the tradition, creating their own memories and stories to pass down to future generations.

As I sit here now, with a fresh loaf of 49er Christmas Bread cooling on the counter, I can't help but smile. This recipe has brought so much joy and happiness to my family over the years, and I know that it will continue to do so for generations to come.

So, if you ever find yourself in need of a delicious and comforting bread to serve during the holiday season, look no further than the recipe for 49er Christmas Bread. It may have humble beginnings, but I can assure you that it is filled with love, tradition, and a touch of magic that will warm your heart and soul.


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