Try this sweet, spiced Christmas bread filled with marzipan as an alternative to Christmas cake at any time of the day.
350g/12oz strong white flour
1 tsp salt
50g/2oz butter, plus extra for greasing
35g/1½oz fresh yeast
100ml/3½fl oz tepid milk
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
25g/1oz caster sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
2 cardamom pods, crushed seeds only
1 lemon, finely grated zest only
40g/1½oz flaked almonds
150g/5oz mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, citrus peel)
icing sugar, to dust
Mix the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre, crumble in the yeast and pour in the tepid milk, eggs, sugar, spices and lemon zest.
Fold a little of the flour from the edges of the bowl into the wet ingredients, but don't mix completely. Set aside for 20-30 minutes to allow the yeast to activate and form a 'sponge'.
Draw the ingredients into the 'sponge' and mix together to form a soft dough. Tip out onto a work surface and knead for five minutes then briefly knead in the almonds and dried fruit. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 1-2 hours, or overnight in a cool place.
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Lightly grease a baking tray.
Once the dough has risen, tip it out onto a work surface and press it out into a rectangle about 20cmx25cm/8inx10in. Roll the marzipan into a strip about 10cmx25cm/4inx10in long. Lightly brush the dough with water and place the marzipan down the middle. Fold the edges of the dough over the marzipan then transfer it to the baking tray, seam-side down.
Leave the dough to rise for 40-45 minutes, then transfer to the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown and the bread sounds hollow when the base is tapped.
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