Christmas Bread

Christmas certainly is a special time of year for food. Christmas cakes, plum puddings, mince pies and gingerbread houses are all foods reserved for December, maybe early January and perhaps even late November, but they rarely see the light of day at other times of the year.

Although I believe that it should be more of a year-round tradition, people are often feeling more generous at Christmas time. This year I have followed people on social-networking sites who have captured the spirit of generosity during the Advent season by sharing things that caught their fancy on a particular theme, such as Christmas songs, meditations and Christmas food.

When the River Cottage shared their Christmas bread recipe on December 10th I still thought it was a little too early to be getting well into the Christmas spirit but I kept the page open and infrequently flicked back to it to remind myself of why it was there. I must say that I’m glad that I did because I baked it yesterday and it is definitely worth it.

INGREDIENTS for the River Cottage Christmas bread:

  • 500g Strong white flour
  • 150ml Warm milk
  • 100g Butter, softened
  • 2 Eggs, medium
  • 1 tsp Allspice, ground
  • 1 tsp, Cinnamon, ground
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 100g Golden caster sugar
  • 7g Dried yeast
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 125g Sultanas
  • 75g Raisins
  • 50g Dried apple, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tbs Apple brandy
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 1 tsp Preserved ginger
  • 2 tsp Mixed peel
  • 60g Hazelnuts, roughly chopped


The night before: put the raisins, sultanas and dried apple in a mixing bowl and pour over the brandy and leave to steep overnight.In the morning: put the flour, milk, butter, sugar, eggs, yeast, salt and spices into a mixing bowl, combine everything together and knead for 10 minutes until the mixture is smooth and elastic.Leave the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

Butter and flour an 8” round cake tin.

Once the dough has risen, knock back and place the dough on a work surface and pat out flat, sprinkle fruit, nuts, mixed peel and ginger over the dough and roll up. Gently knead the dough to incorporate the fruit and nuts.

Divide the dough into seven pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place the balls into the prepared cake tin. Loosely cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for about an hour.

Bake in a preheated oven for 45-60 minutes at 160C.


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