Anyone who follows my instagram will know I love baking. Bread, however, is not an area I feel at all confident or comfortable in. I barely know how to knead bread. I really thought I’d cocked this recipe up and due to my lack of knowledge in the area, I have no idea if what I’m doing is right or wrong.
The end result, while not exactly quite like the picture in the book, still tasted good so I thought I’d share it anyway. I could keep practicing it until it looked ‘perfect’ before sharing it, but I’d hate to make out I’m some kind of wizard who just follows recipes and they come out perfect. They don’t.
There was confusion in this recipe from the off, once I’d mixed the yeast into the milk and it just went into clumps and I just decided I wasn’t going to worry about it. The wet ingredients get added into the flour to be mixed by hand, then turned out onto a work surface to be kneaded. I made my best attempt at what I thought was kneading. The dough was sticky as fuck. I feel like whenever I see bread being made on tv, nobody ends up with gloves made of sticky dough so I already thought I’ve done something wrong here.
I put the dough into a clean bowl to prove for over an hour. It had got bigger so I assumed everything was fine. THIS IS WHEN THINGS GOT MESSY. The dough needs to be rolled into a big rectangle and covered with jam and cinnamon, and then rolled up. It’s so hard rolling dough that’s covered with jam. The jam wants to go everywhere, but I got there eventually. The ends were a little uneven and floppy, but this was as good as it was going to get.
The next step is to slice this log in half, which was a challenge even with a sharp knife. Then, you are supposed plait/cross the two strands. The slices keep sticking to the surface, while the jam keeps slipping all over the shop. Eventually, some kind of plait is made which I then need to move onto a baking sheet. I feel this step in the recipe should have been first. This plait does not want to move smoothly without bits of dough slipping out because of the jam. Eventually, I get there and form a crude wreath shape. It looks…ok. It’s a bit messy and strands of dough are escaping, but it is passable as a wreath.
It goes into the oven to prove for an hour and I’m feeling proud of my little wreath creation. Out comes a fucking bread pillow KNOT. This is not a wreath. I’ve made a swollen bread knot. I don’t have high hopes, but I bake it. I knock it on the top, it sounds hollow. Once cooled, I tested a slice. Holy shit, it’s cooked. I have not had a Bake Off disaster. My bottom is not soggy. My bread is not raw. It’s a Christmas miracle.
Cinnamon and Raspberry Whirl Wreath
Recipe from Great British Bake Off: Christmas
Makes one large wreath
350ml full-fat milk
60g caster sugar
10 cardamom pods, crushed
85g unsalted butter
1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
1 medium egg
500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
for the filling
4 tablespoons raspberry jam
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon mixed with 2 teaspoons caster sugar
1. Warm the milk in a pan with the sugar and cardamom. Once steaming, add the butter and let it melt, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 4-5 minutes. Pour through a sieve into a jug, cool until only just warm, then add the yeast and egg and mix well.
2. Sift the flour into a large bowl with the salt and make a well in the centre. Add the liquid and mix with your hands until it all comes together. If it is a little too dry add a splash more milk, and if it feels a little too wet you can add a little more flour, but err on the wetter side to avoid a dry dough.
* My note: The dough feels sticky but I didn’t add any more flour, I just generously dusted my work surface and assume the flour it will pick up then is enough.
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Return to the clean bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
4. Punch down the dough with your knuckles and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to a rectangle about 25 x 45cm, with the long side towards you. Spread the jam evenly overly the dough and sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture, leave a 2cm border on the long side closest to you.
5. Roll the dough up as tightly as you can starting from the long side furthest from you. Slice the dough in half along it’s length to expose the layers. Starting at one end, cross the pieces over each other, keeping the exposed layers uppermost, working down the length of the dough, then transfer to a lined baking sheet and shape into a wreath by folding the four ends over each other to continue the plait.
6. Cover with a clean tea towel or lightly greased clingfilm and leave in warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
7. Place the wreath in the heated over and bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden, then remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.
* If your house is absolutely freezing like mine, heat your oven to it’s lowest heat. On my oven, it’s 40°C. Then, turn the oven off and put a pan or tray (I used the grill tray that comes with my oven) of boiling water in the bottom of the oven. Put your bowl of dough in the warm oven to prove.