100g wholemeal flour + 1 tsp baking powder
100g s/raising flour, white
(Or you could just use all white flour - I’m just trying to be a bit healthier - you could use all wholemeal should you wish, but it'll be a bit dense.)
100g chopped dates
1 dsp sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
(Or whatever sweet spices you like)
1 dsp olive oil* (optional)
50g (approx) golden marzipan*
8-12 or so glace cherries, halved
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the water and oil (if using). Using a flat bladed implement (either a stiff palette knife, or a table knife), mix into a workable dough, adding a little water or flour as appropriate. You’re looking for a soft dough that you can handle without it sticking.
Knead (flatten and fold) just until the dough is smooth, with no pockets of flour. you’re just trying to distribute the ingredients evenly.
Flour the dough on top and underneath, then roll out into an oval about 25-30cms across. Place your chosen filling across the oval, placing the halves of cherries on either side of the filling. Save 3 halves for the top of the loaf.
Bring the far side of the dough over the filling then fold over once more, leaving the seam underneath. Tidy the ends by tucking them under.
Cut three slits in the top of the loaf and half bury a halved cherry in each one, with the top of the cherry uppermost. (If you don’t secure the cherries in the dough, they’ll likely fall off as the bread rises in the oven.)
Bake at 180C for around 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and if the loaf begins to brown to early, place some baking parchment over the top. (I’ve been known to put the loaf into an empty flour bag to protect it for burning - works well.)
For a shiny finish to the loaf, glaze it with a melted teaspoon of marmalade or similar.
I made this initially as a Christmas (or Celebration) loaf, using strong flour and yeast, but this is just a quicker alternative.
I try and use as little oil as possible - I’m going to try adding ground walnuts next time, to see what effect that has.
Instead of marzipan you could use yellow dried apricots, pineapple or slices of mango.
When it’s sliced, the yellow of the marzipan and the red of the cherries gives a festive appearance.