Christmas is only four weeks away and I am thoroughly enjoying the build up. Especially when it comes to creating new recipes to share with you here. Food is a big part of our Christmas, with tradition dictating our ham is cooked on Christmas Eve, as well as fresh sausage rolls and mince pies. This year there will definitely be a Christmas Spiced Fruit Loaf on offer for breakfast on the big day itself. Filling the house with scents of Christmas spice, as it is sliced and toasted.
Packed full of dried fruits including dates, cherries and cranberries, in a brioche style loaf. The added milk, eggs and butter used in a Brioche give it a wonderfully soft crumb. Perfect for eating sliced as is, or toasted and slathered in butter, this loaf really does smell and taste of Christmas.
Creating a flavour packed sweet bread loaf
Using the best Medjool Dates from The Medjool Date Company, certainly enhances the taste of this loaf. While sweeter than my Spiced Fruit Loaf, it does not hold back on the Christmas spices of Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg and Allspice. Resulting in the most amazing aroma, filling the kitchen and then the house, as this beautifully bronzed loaf bakes.
Baked in the British Bakeware, 3lb Farmhouse Loaf Tin, this fruited bread never sticks. The deep sides of the tin ensure the dough is supported as it rises. Resulting in an evely risen loaf, without a muffin top. The advantage being, a great shaped loaf that is easy to slice and the slices fit in the toaster. Without exception, this loaf tin is my most used and treasured piece of kitchen bakeware.
Recipe: Christmas Spiced Fruit Loaf
2 Large Free Range Eggs
Approx 320mls Whole Milk – to make volume to 350mls when added to eggs
1tsp Caster Sugar
7g Easy Bake Dried Yeast – I use Allinson in the green container/sachets
500g/1lb 2oz Strong White Flour
50g/2oz Unsalted Butter – at room temperature and cut into cubes plus extra for greasing the loaf tin
7g Salt – I use Maldon
1tsp Vanilla Bean Paste – I use Nielsen-Massey
2tsp Ground Cinnamon
1tsp Ground Ginger
1tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1/2tsp Ground Allspice
100g/4oz Medjool Dates – I like The Medjool Date Co.
100g/4oz Dried Cranberries
50g/2oz Glacé Cherries
1 Egg whisked with a teaspoon of water for the egg wash
A stand mixer was used to make and knead the dough for this loaf. You may choose to make this by hand, however, the dough is incredibly sticky. A mixer is recommended.
Making the Christmas spiced fruit dough
- First of all, measure 320mls of milk into a microwaveable jug. Zap on full power for 20 seconds. Stir and check the temperature, it should be the same as body temperature.
- Into the slightly warmed (not fridge cold) milk add 2 whole eggs. The volume should be 350mls. Tip away any small excess of milk.
- Pour the milk and eggs into the large bowl of a stand mixer.
- Next add the sugar and yeast. Stir with a sooon to break up the eggs and mix the ingredients.
- Now add the flour, on top of the liquid ingredients. This forms a barrier so that the yeast does not come into direct contact with the next addition, salt.
- Add the salt and cubes of butter.
- Fit a dough hook to the stand mixer and mix on a slow speed for 10 minutes.
- While the dough is mixing prepare the fruit; remove stones from the dates and cut in half, cut each half into four pieces. Next cut each glacé cherry into quarters. Place the cranberries, cherries and dates in a bowl together.
- After 10 minutes of mixing, stop the mixer and lift the dough hook. Remove a small piece of dough and stretch it. The dough is properly kneaded when it can stretch, without tearing, thinly enough to see light through it. This is called the windowpane test. If the dough tears, lower the dough hook and continue mixing for a further 2 minutes, after which test it again.
Adding fruit and spices to the dough
- Once the dough passes the windowpane test, add the fruit and spices.
- Lower the dough hook and mix again on low speed for a further 2 minutes.
- After the fruit is incorporated stop the mixer and lift the dough hook.
- Use clean fingers to scrape the dough from the hook and place it in the bowl.
- Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place it somewhere warm and away from draughts.
- Now leave the dough to double in size.
- NOTE: The presence of spices will slow down the action of the yeast. Therefore, the dough may take longer, up to 2 hours or more, to double in size.
Shaping the dough and proving for a second time
- While the dough is proving thoroughly grease a 3lb deep farmhouse loaf tin with butter.
- When the dough has at least doubled in size, scrape it out on to a lightly floured surface.
- Press the dough into a rough rectangular shape. Now fold the bottom third up and then fold the top third down, so that it slightly overlaps the previous fold.
- Finally, tuck either end under, so that you have an oval-ish shape. Place the shaped dough into the buttered loaf tin. Cover with the same tea towel as before and leave, as before until doubled in size.
- While the dough is proving preheat the oven to 220/220 fan, gas mark 8.
- Once the dough has doubled or even trebled in size, remove the tea towel. Using a pastry brush lightly brush over the egg wash.
Baking the Christmas Spiced Fruit Loaf
- Now place the loaf carefully into the centre of the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes before reducing the oven heat to 220C/200C fan, gas mark 7.
- Continue baking for a further 20 minutes and then remove the loaf from the oven.
- Turn the loaf out on to a cooling rack. Rap the base of the loaf with your knuckle. The bread is baked if the rapping produces a hollow sound. If not, place the loaf, on its side back in the oven and check every 5 minutes until it is fully baked.
Allow the Christmas Spiced Fruit Loaf to fully cool before slicing.
This fruited loaf will last for 3 days in a proper bread bin. Serve sliced, as is, or slice and toast for a delicious, fruit and spice filled breakfast.
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Since you are setting the stand mixer up to make this fruited loaf, why not double up the ingredients and make two loaves? Sharing is inherently part of Christmas. I can think of no better reason, than to give one loaf away. Surely anyone would be happy to receive the gift of a freshly baked, Christmas Spiced Fruit Loaf!
Whatever you are making, baking and creating in your kitchens, have fun and remember food always tastes better when it’s shared.
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