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Thursday 12 December 2013

Baking For Beginners: Nutty Date Christmas Bread

If you're anything like me when you get to the end of the meal you'll probably be more likely to jump straight for the cheese board then the sticky chocolate cake. Sweets are great (no one can keep me away from a danish*) but my savoury tooth tends to win out more often then not whenever I'm in the presence of salty, savoury, gooey, tasty cheeses...

Sorry got lost for a moment there.

So as there is quite literally no better holiday than Christmas for groaningly full cheese boards I thought we should create the perfect Christmas bread for enjoying with all those delicious dairy delectables. And here it is! This nutty slightly sweet wholemeal loaf is based on a Paul 'Twinkle Eyes' Hollywood recipe and has since been perfected by my equally twinkly other half. Even though it is great on its own, it's insanely good with cheese, my personal favourite being a really strong stilton. 

*the pastry you filthy minded readers!

Nutty Date Christmas Loaf (makes one 450g loaf)
You'll need:
  • 7g dried fast acting yeast
  • 250g wholemeal flour, plus a little extra for dusting
  • pinch of salt
  • 25g softened butter
  • 150ml water (you may need more or less)
  • 60g roughly chopped pecans (walnuts or a mix of both also work really well)
  • 90g roughly chopped dates (again you can mix it up with some dried figs or prunes as well)
Make it!
  • Firstly add a little warm water to the yeast to create a slightly watery paste and add it to the flour in a bowl.
  • Add the salt and butter and mix it in well.
  • Start pouring in the water a little at a time with one hand and mix with the other (popping your bowl on a tea towel helps to stop the bowl spinning wildly out of control). 
  • Once the dough starts to become elastic you can get to kneading! Tip out on to a floured surface and knead for a about 5-7 mins. Pop it back in the bowl and leave to rise for 2 hours.
  • Once the dough has risen (it'll be noticeably expanded and springy to the touch) pile your chopped nuts and dried fruit on a clean surface and tip the dough on top. 
  • Incorporate as much of the fruit and nuts into the dough as you can, pressing firmly. Then knead again for another 5-6 mins making sure it all comes together. 
  • Now you can roll into a log and pop it in a greased loaf tin or shape it into a ball and place it on a tray. Leave to rest for 1-2 hours, have a mulled wine and get some wrapping done.
  • Pre heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6.
  • After resting, cut a slice in the top of the loaf with sharp knife and pop in the oven for 25-30 mins. Once done turn out on to a rack to cool.
Now enjoy a slice with your favourite cheese or one of our delicious soups!

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