Here’s a lovely sweet loaf packed with Christmas treats and flavours. It’s a bit like a brioche and a bit like a panettone (both of which are great), but easier and quicker than either.
Makes: 2 medium loaves, about 10 slices each
Time: About 40 – 45 min hands-on. 90 + 45 min proofing time. 25 – 30 min baking.
Level: Fairly easy, but keep an eye on the loaves while baking to avoid them being too dark.
Need: A stand mixer will be very useful, but not essential.
- Up to 75g/2½oz cherries, chopped
- Up to 50g/1¾oz dried apricots, chopped
- Up to 50g/1¾oz raisins or sultanas or cranberries
- About 75ml/2½fl oz sherry or brandy (enough to cover the items above, in a bowl.)
- 400g/14oz strong white flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 7g/1½ tsp instant yeast (Use 10g/2 tsp if you put in maximum fruit)
- 50g – 75g (1¾ – 2½oz) caster sugar
- ½ tsp each of ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 50g/1¾oz butter, softened
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 200ml/7fl oz milk or buttermilk + a little more in reserve if needed
- 50g/1¾oz flaked almonds
- 50g – 75g (1¾ – 2½oz) white chocolate, chopped
- Zest of one orange
- ½ an egg beaten, to glaze (optional)
Despite what the “experts” say about accurate measurements, I’m still a bit of a “bung it in and see” type of baker, which may not be helpful – sorry. Anyway, as you’ll see above it’s another of my “flexible” recipes.
1. The night before baking, put the cherries, apricots and other dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the chosen alcohol. Cover and leave overnight, but give it a few stirs before you go to bed.
2. Next day, mix together the flour, salt, yeast, sugar and spices. (Keep the salt and yeast apart when mixing.) Mix in the softened butter and beaten egg.
3. Gradually add the milk or buttermilk and mix to form a dough, which should be soft but not over wet.
4. Knead (8 – 10 minutes in a stand mixer; probably 15 minutes by hand) Place in an oiled bowl and turn it over a few times then cover and leave until it has doubled in volume – about 90 – 120 minutes.
5. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knock it back. Stretch or roll it out and add in the fruit, nuts, chocolate and zest, ensuring an even distribution. Fold them in and divide the dough into two equal parts. Form into ball shapes, pulling the surface taught using cupped hands. (Try not to have fruit or other “bits” sticking up on top, as they’re likely to burn during baking.)
6. Put the dough balls on a lined baking sheet and place inside a large plastic bag, such as a kitchen bin liner. Leave to rise again – about an hour.
7. Put a baking tray or baking stone in the oven on the middle shelf and turn the oven on to 220°C / Fan 200°C / 425°F / Gas 7. Dust the loaves lightly with flour and cover them loosely with foil.
Due to the sugar content it’s been a challenge to bake these without having a burnt surface. Another method could be to cover them in the latter stages of the bake.
8. Bake for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 200°C / Fan 180°C / 400°F / Gas 6. You could just take off the foil and leave them in the oven for another 10 – 15 minutes, but here’s what I did:
8A. Working quickly, I took the loaves out, uncovered them and brushed them with egg wash. I put them back in the oven, uncovered, and baked them for a further 10 – 15 minutes, but kept a close eye on them in case they darkened too much.
9. Once baked, check for a hollow sound when tapped then place on a wire rack to cool.
I hope I haven’t waffled too much in this recipe. Give it a go anyway and let me know if I need to change anything. And, whether you bake it or not I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and may God bless you in the year ahead.
Here are a few other Christmas bakes that may be of interest. These and more are in: