I have a new nickname at work.
It’s not a bad nickname, just an all-too-observant comment on my breakfast. And snack-time meal. And post-lunch treat. And tummy-rumble-turn-to-treat.
It’s the cinnamon that tips them off. That and the scent of freshly buttered, toasted something wafting out of my office and down the hallway.
“Hey hot-cross-bun” they will call out, as the smell hits their tables “hungry again are ya?”
But oh! I have found a sneaky way to get past their ever-alert olefactory senses! For when they pop their heads past my door, not a single rotund little bun marked with white flour/sugar/water cross will be seen!
But instead, a slice of seemingly simple-looking bread. Fluffy, jewel-studded bread, with the waft of cinnamon and vanilla. All the flavour of a hot-cross bun, but with extras (!) and in the guise of a braided loaf.
And oh, how satisfied I will be at my trickiness. And oh (!) how delicious my breakfast-morning-tea-snack-time-after-lunch-treat will be!
But they-who-are-at-home have eaten their way through a loaf already, and show no signs of letting the second loaf out of their sights, much less the front door.
spicy cranberry & date easter loaf
This loaf is fluffier than your regular hot cross bun, and is a middle-of-the-bun lover’s dream. Stick it under the grill with a little butter and eat it while it’s toasty and warm. It would also make a fantastic base for a bread-and-butter-pudding, what with its vanilla-cinnamon sweetness, the earthiness of dried dates and the slight tartness of dried cranberries. But that would require it going stale. And that just isn’t going to happen around here.
You will need:
1Â½ tbs dried yeast
250ml warm milk
Â¼C white sugar
1/3C dried cranberries
1C dried dates
4C plain white flour
1Â½tsp ground cinnamon
Â½C warmed cranberry juice
1tbsp apricot jam
How to do it:
1. You’ll want the milk to be warm to touch, without being scaldingly hot. If you can feel warmth and your finger doesn’t turn an odd shade of pink after you’ve dipped it in there, you’re at the right temperature.
2. Tip the milk, yeast & sugar into a bowl and whisk until it is all a gloopy brown mess that smells a little like overripe fruit. Leave it somewhere warm for 10 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients together.
3. Chop the dried dates until they’re about the same size as the cranberries. Now run your knife a few times through the cranberries. Aim for the big ones.
4. Chop up the butter into cubes and then rub it into the flour in a nice big bowl. Once it’s all blended in nicely, tip in the vanilla, ground cinnamon and dried fruit. Oh! And the egg and the yeast mixture and the warm cranberry juice and stir, stir, stir (!) until it becomes one great big hulking bowl of gorgeous smelling dough.
5. Toss a towel over the top and leave it in a warm spot for an hour.
6. Count your Easter Eggs while you wait. Then eat them. Slo-o-owly.
7. Time’s up! Flour your benchtop and tip the dough out onto it. Knead for about five minutes or until the dough is smooth an elastic. I am lazy and always give up at about the three minute mark, which is why my loaves don’t have beautiful smooth tops. You should aim for five. It’s good for you.
8. Divide your dough into six portions and then wriggle them into sausage shapes with your hands. Braid them together, three at a time, then plop them into two small loaf tins that have been pre-greased.
9. Leave the tins for a second rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes, then pop them into a 160C (fan-forced) or 180C (non-fan forced) oven.
10. After ten minutes in the oven, turn the heat down 20C and bake for another 20 mins.
11. Last step – promise! – pop the jam & honey into the microwave until it’s liquidy and then brush it over the top of the loaves for that lovely glossy, sticky sheen. Now toast! And eat! All year round!