Countdown to Christmas with Scandilicous Pt.1: Maple-iced fruity Advent Bread
Every now and then I get a cookbook that I know in my heart of hearts is a stayer. By that I mean a cookbook that will, over time, get splattered with food and penciled with scribbled notes detailing recipe tweaks or a record of the occasions the recipes were made for. Some of my cookbooks sit on the shelf looking as pristine as the day I got them, while others looked well used and much-loved. My latest ‘stayer’ is the wonderful Scandilicous Baking by Signe Johansen.
I must admit, I’m drawn to most things Scandinavian with food being of no exception. In the book Johansen takes you through chapters on Breads, rolls & flatbreads; Savouries; Pastries, sweet buns & muffins; Cakes; Pudding & tarts and then Biscuits, treats & edible gifts. It’s a mouth-watering journey. It has year-round appeal too, with recipes spanning the seasons.
For me though, Scandinavian baking really comes into its own at Christmas. I can hardly wait to dive headlong into this book and come Saturday, when my kids open the first door on their advent calendars, I will no doubt be able to hold off no longer. Today and over the next two weeks I will be bringing you three of my favourite recipes from Scandilicous Baking, all of which are perfect for the festive season. If you like the look of any of the recipes, I do urge you to treat yourself to this cookbook (or pop it on your Christmas list) as you won’t be disappointed. So this week as we enter the month on December, I am sharing with you Johansen’s recipe for Maple-iced fruity Advent Bread. If this doesn’t get you in the festive mood, I’m afraid to say that you’re probably a lost cause.
Maple-iced fruity Advent bread
Advent in the Johansen household is all about baking, and great bread is a must. This is a delicious sweet loaf dotted with boozy fruit – I use a mix of apricots, cranberries, sour cherries, raisins, prunes, chopped dates and figs. I spike the fruit with Manzanilla sherry due to my particular fondess for its nutty, slightly saline flavour, but by all means use your favourite tipple – brandy, rum and calvados all work really well. The maple icing is optional but adds a little sweet decadence. Makes 1 loaf
250ml whole milk
300g refined spelt (or plain) flour
125g wholemeal spelt (or wheat) flour
70g caster sugar, plus 1 tsp (if using fresh yeast)
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp salt
20g fresh yeast or 10g fast action dried yeast
1 medium egg, beaten
50ml Manzanilla sherry
150g mixed dried fruit, chopped
1 medium egg, beaten, to glaze
150g icing sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
Scald the milk by heating it in a small pan with the butter until it is almost boiling and then leave to cool while you assemble the other ingredients. Scalding the milk makes the finished bread softer.
Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, sprinkle in the dried yeast (if using) and stir through. If using fresh yeast, cream it with a teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and once it is liquid (after about 30 seconds), add to the dry ingredients.
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add the beaten egg and then the milkbutter mixture, which should be warm rather than hot to the touch, as otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Stir everything together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl and looks – for want of a better word – doughy.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled plastic bag or cover the bowl with lightly oiled clingfilm. Leave to rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or so until doubled in size and springy to the touch.
While the dough is rising, pour the sherry over the dried fruit in a medium-sized bowl, topping up with water if necessary to ensure that the fruit is fully covered.
Leave to soak for 30 minutes before draining off any excess liquid (don’t throw this away, as it’s great for using in fruit salads or for adding to sweet sauces). Knock the dough back for 10 seconds or so, then add the fruit and mix through by hand so it is evenly distributed. Shape in to a rough loaf shape about 20cm long – the end result is meant to look flat and rustic so don’t worry about shaping it in to anything fancy.
Cover the dough again and leave to prove in a warm place for a further 45-60 minutes of so, until the dough no longer springs back: you can test it by gently poking it with your little finger – the indentation should stay put.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Glaze the risen dough with beaten egg and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40-45 minutes until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
When the bread is cool, mix the icing sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup together.
It should form a sticky icing, not too runny. Drizzle the icing all over the bread and allow to set completely. If you have any left over (and you can resist the urge to lick the bowl clean!), you could drizzle a second layer on later, or keep it for icing gingerbread or other cakes.
© Signe Johansen 2012. Recipe extracted from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen, out now published by Saltyard Books, £25. Photos © Tara Fisher.
A passionate home cook and eater, Louise Gorrod authors Buttercup Days which chronicles family life, her love for nostalgia, occasion, beautiful things and of course cooking. Louise lives beside the seaside with her husband and two young children in East Sussex from where she juggles her role as one half of Seen PR alongside mummy-stuff, writing and baking cakes. You can follow her on Twitter @ButtercupDays. Read more posts by Louise Gorrod.
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