No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

CHRISTMAS LOAF - Festive, fun - and vegan!

To demonstrate just how easy this loaf is to make, this was made in about an hour and a half in one of my special needs breadmaking classes. There are more pics further down the post - some showing how the loaf is assembled.
This is a splendid bread for those who find Christmas cake a bit too rich and heavy. Every slice should show the bright yellow of the marzipan, and the red of the glacé cherries. The amounts of fruit, etc, I’ve given, are merely my suggestions. Vary them as you will. If you aren’t keen on marzipan, use (yellow) dried apricots - or tinned sliced peaches. And use any other glacé fruit you like. The idea is create a colourful, festive appearance when the loaf is sliced.

[For another take on this loaf, which belongs to the large family of fruit breads - with pics - have a look here.]

200g (or 1 mug) strong white flour                                                    
1 tablespoon sugar
100g (1/2 mug) sultanas (or any dried fruit; chop larger fruit down to sultana size)
25g candied peel
Any spices you like – mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. - to personal taste
1 dsp fresh yeast
125ml (or 1/3 mug) lukewarm water
Good splash of olive oil (2-3 tbs?) (optional)

50g golden marzipan
50g glacé cherries, halved (save 3 half cherries for decoration)
Sugar glaze made with 1 tsp sugar and 1 dessertspoon boiling water

1.    Place the flour, sugar, dried fruit, nuts, mixed peel and spices in a large mixing bowl. Mix to distribute the spices. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and pour in the yeast liquid. Add the olive oil. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight).

2.   Hold the bowl with one hand and begin to mix with the other. Use one hand to turn the bowl round, whilst the other hand begins to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water. When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3.   Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it becomes smooth and even. This shouldn’t take very long.

4.   Now roll the dough out into a circle about 20cm across, then shape the marzipan into a long rope, just smaller than the width of the dough. Place the marzipan across the middle of the dough and put the halves of glacé cherries along each side of the marzipan (saving 3 halved cherries for decorating the top). Add more cherries if you like.

5.   Fold one side of the dough, towards you, over the marzipan and cherries, then fold it over once more, so that the seam is underneath. Tuck the ends underneath to stop the marzipan from leaking out. Place on a prepared baking sheet.

6.   Using a pair of scissors, snip three cuts in a row in the top of the loaf for the half cherries. Gently, but firmly, insert a halved glacé cherry into the slits, tucking the edge of the cherry under the dough on each side (this stops them falling out as the bread rises). 

7.   Cover with a dry tea towel and leave until it has risen appreciably. To prevent it browning too fast  cover it with baking parchment halfway through baking.

8.   Bake for 25–30 minutes at 190C, 375F or gas mark 5. Brush with a sugar glaze made from 1 rounded teaspoon of sugar and 2 of boiling water.  Cool on a wire tray.

This will keep for a couple of days and it freezes very well.

Here's my Christmas loaf for this year, containing dried apricots, and cranberries
The large one is for us, the small one I've sent to my sister, who sends us a Christmas pud every year.

Bit of a traffic light theme here, which I thought the grandchildren would enjoy!
These pics are of the Christmas loaf we're having this Christmas  - that's now in the freezer - plus my sister's loaf which is in the care of Royal Mail, ATM.

Here are the ingredients:

300g strong white flour
3 dessertspoons sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
100g sultanas
50g cranberries
50g dried apricots, chopped
(These were all soaked for a while in boiling water - then I used the water with the yeast)
175ml lukewarm soaking water (bit less than usual because the fruit was very wet)
10g fresh yeast
25ml olive oil

100g golden marzipan
Coloured glacé cherries, halved 

This made for a very sticky dough which I kneaded briefly for several times over about an hour - by which time it had become a lot less sticky.

I divided it into 2 - 500g and 300g (roughly), rolled the dough out into long ovals (I've realised that by making the loaf longer and thinner, it'll bake better) and added the marzipan and the cherries.

Folded the top over the middle, then rolled it over once more, hiding the seam underneath, and tucked the ends in.

On went the cherries and I covered both loaves with a roasting dish to prove.

Whilst the filling was going on, the bread was rising, so it didn't take long before it was ready to go into the oven. I left the cover on in the oven for the first 15 minutes then removed the cover and turned the tray round a quarter turn every 5 minutes until it was done - about 35 minutes altogether at 200C.

When it came out of the oven I put the loaves to cool and brushed them with a sugar glaze

(I'm a bit annoyed with myself, since I forgot to sprinkle some flaked almonds over the marzipan and cherries.)

Friday 16th December.
I've been making this bread with various groups for the past few weeks - here's a few pics:


  1. This looks gorgeous, Paul! The addition of the cherries with the marzipan is most unusual. I'd love to see a photo when you slice it.

  2. Thanks, Sue.

    We won't be getting into it until round Christmas, but I'll probably make some in my session tomorrow afternoon (in a care home).

    I'll see if I can't remember both to have a slice (although I'm in the 'zone' at the moment!) and take a pic.

    Cheers, Paul

  3. Great Post :) i like your site