This is a variation on Paul Hollywood’s Tsoureki (Greek Easter) bread. I’ve altered the ingredients with cream cheese & fine sponge flour, to produce a yeasted & non-GF loaf (here’s GF) which is sweet & spicy, and light & fluffy.
Easter baking usually contains dried fruit; you can use raisins, cranberries, chopped apricots, and/or dates, etc. Mixed dried fruit with peel is perfect.
Makes: One loaf
- 500g extra-fine sponge flour, plus loads extra for kneading & shaping
- 1 sachet dried yeast (7g)
- Several grinds of salt
- 75g white caster (or granulated) sugar – golden caster gives a better flavour
- 1 orange, finely grated zest only
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (4-5 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and heartily crushed)
- 60g cold butter, plus additional to grease tin
- 150ml (150g if weighing) just-boiled water
- 150ml (150g if weighing) tepid tap water
- 150g full-fat cream cheese
- 75g dried fruit (mixed dried fruit with citrus peel is best for that ‘hot cross bun’ taste)
- Vegetable oil, for the clingfilm
- 1 medium egg (40-50g weighed in its shell), whisked, for glazing
- A 2lb loaf tin
- Baking/parchment paper, cut to fit the bottom of the tin with an overhang on each end
- 2 mixing bowls: 1 large and 1 small
- Mortar and pestle (if you don’t have ground cardamom)
- Fine citrus grater
- Pastry brush
- Cooling rack
- Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, zest, and spices into a small bowl, keeping the yeast and salt on separate sides. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture is like breadcrumbs.
- Put the hot and tepid waters into a large bowl with the cream cheese, and stir vigourously until well mixed. Tip the dry ingredients in; heavily flour your hands, and combine manually. (The dough will be very sticky at this point.)
- Leave the dough in the bowl, covered with clingfilm, in a warm and draught-free place for 1 hour or so, to double in size.
- Heavily flour a work surface and your hands, and knead the dough vigourously for at least 10 minutes with the dried fruit. Keep adding flour until the dough is less sticky.
- Leave the dough in the bowl, covered again with clingfilm, for another hour in the same warm and draught-free place to double in size again.
- Butter your tin and line the bottom with paper, leaving ‘handles’ at the ends.
Tip out the dough onto a heavily floured surface and roll it together into a smooth cylinder the length of your tin, and place in the tin. Rub a touch of oil on the underside of your clingfilm and cover the tin loosely. Leave to rise a 3rd time (see footnote) up to 90 minutes, until it’s a few inches above the sides of the tin.
- Preheat your oven to 210 C (190 C fan-assisted). Remove the clingfilm, and brush the top of the loaf with the whisked egg. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the tin halfway through for even baking. Turn the oven down to 180 C (160 C fan-assisted) and bake for 10-15 more minutes. Once done (tip it out from the tin enough to rap your knuckles on the bottom and hear a ‘hollow’ sound), remove the loaf from the tin with the paper handles, and leave to cool on a cooling rack.
- As with most breads, this freezes well – slice the cooled loaf, place the slices into sealed plastic bags/containers, and put into the freezer; pop a frozen slice straight into the toaster.
Notes on Rising
On a warm day, leaving the dough to rise is a doddle. On colder days, it can either take simply ages, or not want to rise at all. On a really cold day when the heating’s on, I’ll put the loaf tin on a radiator, on top of two cork mats so the heat doesn’t directly touch the bottom of the tin. Or, you can turn your oven on to the absolute lowest setting until it heats, turn it off, and leave the tin in with the door open.
Some bakers advocate turning on your oven, opening the door, and leaving the tin on a chair next to the oven. However, this means having the oven on for up to 90 minutes prior to baking, which uses up extra power if you’ve already got the heating on, anyway. (It’s also not very practical with dogs in the house, nor with a wall oven.)