This is a sweet, Christmassy version of a tear-and-share tea bread, packed with fruit and spices and almost as much fun to decorate as a real Christmas tree. I know, I need to get out more.
The observant may notice there are two versions of the bread in these pictures. I actually made three. We’ll draw a veil over the first. The second was a bit solid. By the third, I’d cracked it. Please think of it as my present to you, dear reader. Happy Christmas and thanks for all the follows.
Though the snafus were my own, the sweet dough is based on one from Richard Bertinet’s Dough, a book I can’t recommend too highly. Get someone to put a copy in your stocking this Christmas. Or under the tree. But not this tree, obvs.
Christmas Tree Spice Bread
250g full-fat milk
6g fast-action yeast
500g strong white bread flour
60g butter at room temperature
50g dark brown soft sugar (bash it to get any hard lumps out)
2 large eggs
1 tspn ground ginger
1 tspn powdered cinnamon
1 tspn ground allspice
150g glacé cherries, halved or quartered
100g dried apricots, chopped
Zest of two oranges and 1 lemon
To glaze and decorate:
1 egg, beaten
50g icing sugar mixed with lemon juice
Glacé cherries and other candied fruit of your choice
Warm the milk in a saucepan until it’s at blood heat – if you dip your finger in, it shouldn’t feel either warm or cold.
Then either tip it with the remaining bread ingredients (except the dried fruit) into a mixer with a dough hook and blend to a smooth dough. Add the dried fruit towards the end and make sure it’s evenly distributed. Or if you’re doing it by hand, mix the yeast into the flour and rub in the butter as if you were making a crumble. Add the sugar and salt, spices and zest, followed by the eggs and milk. Mix until you have a smooth dough, again adding the fruit towards the end. Don’t be alarmed if it’s a bit sticky at this point. Place in a lightly floured bowl, cover and leave to rest for an hour.
Lightly oil a large oven tray. Dust your board with flour and divide the dough into 16 equal pieces: the easiest way to do this is to form it into a sausage, cut it in half, then continue to cut each piece in half until you have 16 pieces. Form 15 into balls and the 16th into a fat log.
Arrange on the baking tray in a tree shape, setting the balls slightly apart – one ball at the top, then a row below of two, then three, four and five. Use the log to form the trunk. Cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm to rise for an hour and a half, until the balls have increased in size and joined themselves together.
Brush with egg wash and bake in a pre-heated oven at 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7 for about 18-20 minutes until the crust is a glossy, dark golden brown. Slide onto a wire rack to cool completely before attempting to decorate (although you can stop at this point if you don’t want to ice it).
Mix the icing sugar with just enough lemon juice to make an icing thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Put it in a piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off and zig-zag it over the cake. Use halved glacé cherries and other cut candied fruit (or mixed peel or jelly sweets) to form the decorations and stick them on with a dab of icing. Allow the icing to set before tucking in.
Ooh that looks fab and sounds delicious! Am adding this to my recipes to try!!
Thanks, Jacqui. Hope you like it. Happy Christmas!
‘ello Mrs P. Can I use instant yeast and if so, how much? (Will do this for Christmas in Arizona….!)
Wotcha, the Other Mr P. I used 6g of fast action yeast. If you mean active dry yeast I’d use 7g but I have to admit I’m guessing a bit as I don’t use it and the conversions aren’t quite the same as usual (the original recipe started with 15g fresh yeast) because it’s an enriched dough. Needs extra rising time too, included in the method here. Hope that helps.
Ta for that. It’s the damned nomenclature that confuses me….there’s fresh…OK, got that, then active dry, which you have to dissolve in milk, then instant or fast action. I had that Mr Paul Hollyrude’s baking book and he was all over the place, yeast-wise. I am taking this recipe to Arizona and intend to make it for Rob’s sister’s birthday party on Xmas Eve!
Lovely, thanks, glad you approve. Talking of prove, can I advise quick-action in this case? I would hate for you to make it and it not work and I haven’t experimented with the proportions in active dry yeast. Have a lovely Christmas if we don’t speak beforehand. Lx
Well, how creative is this — and fun? Great idea!
Thanks! So pleased you like the look of it.
I’ve pinned it. I need to make it. 🙂
Delighted to hear it! Do please let me know how you get on with it. Lx
Now then. You recommend ‘Dough’. I was thinking of hoping to find Dan Leppard’s ‘Short and Sweet’under the Christmas tree. Do you have a view on this? I honestly don’t know now. Oh yes I do. Ask for both……
When in doubt, do both. I’m not familiar with Dan Leppard’s book so can’t make a recommendation but I have two of Richard’s and I’ve never had a recipe go wrong.
*sigh*. You’re supposed to be saving me money, not making me spend it.
Sorry! Thought someone else was doing the buying …
Maybe. But only one, eh?
Oh, Linda, those are so lovely. I wish I had looked yesterday, we could have had them for breakfast today (Mum is visiting). Well, that teaches me a very valuable lesson: always look everyday what you are up to and there would be time to make such a beautiful treat. N.
Aw, thanks. *blushes* Recipes on Tuesdays and Fridays, usually, though Christmas may throw a spanner in the works. Thanks again. Lx