A memorable Christmas yeast bread with aromatic cardamom and colourful dried fruit filling. It makes a lovely centre piece for the festive table.
50g (1¾ oz) butter
160ml (5½ fl oz) full cream milk
450g 1 lb) strong white plain flour
1 tsp salt
8g (barely ¼ oz) dried ‘easy bake’ yeast
40g (1½ oz) caster sugar
2 free range eggs
1½-2 tsp ground cardamom
50g (1¾ oz) butter, softened
50g (1¾ oz) soft brown sugar
75g (2¾ oz) glacé cherries, mixture of red and green, chopped
75g (2¾ oz) mixed peel
75g (2¾ oz) dried chopped apricots
75g (2¾ oz) sultanas
25g (1 oz) nibbed almonds (chopped almonds)
1 small egg, beaten
100g (3½ oz) icing sugar, sieved
Balls of red fondant icing
Edible Christmas leaves and stars
Makes one large round, cuts into 12 pieces
1. Place the butter and milk into an AGA saucepan and gently heat on the simmering plate until the butter is almost melted, do not boil. Put the saucepan to one side to allow the liquid to cool until tepid.
2. Meanwhile put the flour, salt, yeast and sugar into the bowl of a free standing mixer and stir. When the liquid has cooled to tepid add to the flour mixture together with the eggs. Using the dough hook, knead for 5 minutes on medium speed to make a smooth dough, alternatively if you wish, knead by hand. Leave the dough in the mixer bowl and cover with cling film. Prove near the AGA to rise for about 50-60 minutes, until doubled in size.
3. Make up the filling; place the cardamom, butter and brown sugar into a basin, beat together then fold in the dried fruit and nuts.
4. Place the risen dough onto a lightly floured work top. Lightly knead and roll out to a rectangle 52cm x 32cm – this takes some perseverance be patient! Spread the filling mixture over the dough and brush one long side with beaten egg. Roll up from the ‘un-egged’ long side, like a Swiss roll, making sure the seam at the end of rolling is stuck well. Roll the sausage shape with the palms of your hand to elongate to around 74cm long. Trim the two ends and use beaten egg to join them together to form a circle.
5. Place the dough ring on Bake-O-Glide on the cold plain shelf, or a large baking sheet. With a sharp pair of scissors cut down into the dough around the ring, about 2.5cm (1 inch) apart, ease the slices out to show the filling. Cover with some oiled cling film and place near the AGA to rise for about 45 minutes.
6. Remove the cling film and brush with beaten egg.
7. Slide the cold plain shelf onto the oven grid shelf, placed on the floor of the roasting oven, and cook for 15 minutes, until golden – turn the shelf after 10 minutes for perfect browning. Then move to the centre of the baking oven for about 10 minutes or until the Christmas Wreath is cooked through, it will sound hollow when tapped. Slide off the Bake-O-Glide onto a wire cooling rack to cool.
AGA R5 Series 2-oven: Slide the baking sheet onto the oven grid shelf, placed on the floor of the roasting oven, and cook for 15 minutes, until golden – turn the shelf after 10 minutes for perfect browning. Then slide the cold plain shelf above and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the Christmas Wreath is cooked through, it will sound hollow when tapped. Slide off the Bake-O-Glide onto a wire cooling rack to cool.
Conventional cooking: Bake at 200ºC, fan oven180ºC, Gas Mark 6 for 10-15 minutes then reduce the heat to 180ºC, fan oven 160ºC, Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
8. For the decoration make up the icing by mixing the icing sugar with lemon juice, to a consistency you want then drizzle over the wreath. Decorate with red balls of fondant icing and edible stars and leaves.