Advent is a magical time of year. You are “officially” allowed to to start your countdown to Christmas. Not that this has ever stopped me starting my countdown ridiculously early. But the first Sunday of advent marks the day where all the scroogy anti-xmas folk have to bite their tongues and allow us Christmas addicts to do our thang.
I, like most, have an advent calendar to help me with my countdown, but I also adopt a German tradition – Advent candles. You see – people think I am out of control at this time of year. But what these people forget to think about, is that a full-blown Christmas addiction alike mine doesn’t pop up out of no where. Yes mother dearest – I am now implicating you publicly. You did this to me, but I thank you. My Dad’s side of the family are German, and so my mum decided to embrace some of the festive German traditions. Every year, we embark upon a festive shopping excursion to select four candles. Four advent candles. Then, the idea is to light candle numero uno on the first Sunday of advent, burning it a little each evening until the second Sunday arrives, at which point you light your second candle. And so on and so forth. So, by the time you reach the fourth Sunday of advent, all four candles shine brightly at different heights. Bootiful.
Today’s bake caught my attention because it is advent-related. Maple-iced Fruity Advent bread. I had never heard of Advent bread, so when I came across it in this year’s UK Christmas Good Housekeeping magazine, I was instantly intrigued. The recipe is courtesy of Signe Johansen, a Norwegian-American food writer & cook. I will definitely be exploring her recipes further.
My first attempt didn’t end too well – I forgot to put baking paper down, and my little baking tray wasn’t big enough for the amount of dough, so it burnt. Round 2, however, was much better. I halved the dough after the first prove ,but I’ll put the original recipe below. You can make your own mind up as to whether or not you want to make the full amount! Also – I had no sherry in the house, so instead soaked the fruit in Cointreau. The maple icing is IN-CREDIBLE. I’d quite like to make iced-buns with this icing instead of regular. Another day. Happy baking y’all! Ho ho ho!
250 ml whole milk
300g white spelt flour (plus extra to dust)
125g wholemeal spelt flour
75g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cardamon
10g fast-action dried yeast
3 medium eggs
oil to grease
50ml Manzilla sherry
150g mixed dried fruit (chopped if large)
150g icing sugar
1 tsp ground cinamon
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
1/ Scald the milk by heating it in a small pan with the butter until almost boiling, then set aside to cool until luke-warm.
2/ To make the bread, sift flours into a large bowl, then stir in sugar, cardamon and yeast. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients; beat 2 eggs, then add to dry ingredients with the lukewarm milk mixture. Stir well until the mixture comes off the side of the bowl. Place dough in a greased bowl, and cover with lightly oiled cling-film. Leave to prove for 45mins – 1 hour or until doubled in size.
3/ While the dough is proving, pour the sherry over the dried fruit in a medium bowl, topping up with water if necessary to ensure the fruit is fully covered. Leave to soak for 30 minutes before draining off excess liquid.
4/ Punch the dough back, then add the drained fruit, kneading thoroughly until evenly distributed. Shape into a loaf – about 8 inches long. Transfer to a lined baking tray, cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove a second time for a further 45mins – 1 hour.
5/ Preheat oven to 200°C, beat remaining egg and gently brush over the loaf, before baking for 35 – 45 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Cool completely on a wire rack.
6/ When bread is cool, mix together the icing sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup to make a sticky (but not runny) icing. Drizzle the icing all over the top of the bread, and allow to set completely. Enjoy with a lovely cup of tea!