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Easter sweet spiced fruit bread

by Elly McCausland
Easter sweet spiced fruit bread

Easter sweet spiced fruit bread

PT1H

Why not try?

A warm slice of spiced fruit bread is one my favourite brunch treats. This bread is a little like brioche, but with less butter and less arduous preparation. However, because the dough is enriched with butter, milk and eggs it has all the sweet, pillow-soft richness of a classic brioche.

Recently, it occurred to me that the dough is basically the same enriched dough used to make hot cross buns. Adding spice and dried fruit to the basic plaited milk loaf turns it into a ‘hot cross loaf’, with all the warm fragrance and fruity sweetness of those beloved buns.

I like to soak the dried fruit in aromatic tea before adding it to the dough; this helps it stay plump and sweet, and also brings another layer of flavour, particularly if you use a tea like chai or Earl Grey. This loaf is easy to make but looks beautiful and impressive, and can be sliced, toasted and buttered on demand.

No need for piping crosses or shaping individual rolls; this is the kind of treat bread that should simply be placed in the middle of the table with a slab of good butter and devoured at any time of day (or year).

Ingredients

Metric

Imperial

1
To begin, soak the fruit and mixed peel in the hot tea for 1 hour
2
Meanwhile, place the butter and milk in a small saucepan and heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool
3
In the bowl of an electric mixer, or a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand, mix the flours, caster sugar and spices. Place the salt on one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other side
4
When the butter/milk mixture has cooled to body temperature, beat the egg in a small bowl. Reserve 1 tsp of the beaten egg, and add the rest to the milk and butter
5
Add the egg and butter mixture to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon to form a sticky dough. Knead for 10 minutes either by hand or with a food mixer fitted with a dough hook
6
The dough will be quite wet, so keep persevering until it becomes manageable. Return the dough to a bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size
7
Drain the soaked fruit (discard the tea). Add the fruit to the dough and knead well until evenly distributed. If doing this by hand, it helps to scatter the fruit over the flattened dough and fold the dough up around it like a parcel, then keep kneading to spread the fruit throughout the dough
8
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long cylinder, about 30–35cm long and 5cm wide. Put each strand next to each other vertically in front of you, leaving a small gap between each
9
Squash the top of the strands together, then plait them. To do this, cross the left strand over the middle, then the right strand over the middle and repeat until all the dough is plaited
10
Squash the end nearest you together, then tuck both squashed ends slightly under the loaf to neaten it up
11
Carefully transfer the loaf to a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper and leave to rise again for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size
12
Preheat the oven 200°C/gas mark 6. Place a baking dish filled with water in the bottom of the oven
13
Add 1 tsp of milk to the reserved beaten egg and mix to combine. Brush this all over the risen loaf (be gentle – you don’t want to knock the air out). Scatter the loaf with sesame seeds and place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes
14
Lower the temperature to 180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 20–25 minutes, until the bread is shiny and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and leave to cool. Slice and serve with butter
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