over 2 hours
30 mins to 1 hour
Makes 1 loaf
This delicious sweet bread makes a beautiful centrepiece at any table - even if you skip the intricate shaping and twist it into a simple plait instead.
Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan and then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Top up with water to make 400ml/14fl oz total of liquid – the mixture should be lukewarm.
Add the sugar, yeast, salt, flour and ground cardamom to a large bowl and mix.
Stir in three-quarters of the lukewarm milk and water mixture, then mix in the egg, softened butter and orange zest. Combine, using your hands, and then add as much of the remaining milk and water as you need to get a soft, sticky dough.
Knead on a lightly floured clean work surface until smooth, elastic and no longer sticky. Knead in half of the chocolate chips and half of the candied peel. Shape into a ball, place in a large oiled bowl, cover and leave for 1-1½ hours, or until doubled in size.
Roll out a quarter of the dough to a semicircle shape, about 30cm/12in across and ½-1cm/¼-½in thick. Prick all over with a fork. Sprinkle the remaining choc chips and peel over and gently push in. Place on a greased and floured baking tray.
Make small balls of foil approximately the same size as mini-egg chocolates.
Set aside a small portion of the dough for the peacock’s body, cutting this into a 1cm/½in thick triangle shape. Divide the remaining dough into 27 pencil shapes by rolling it all out, cutting into rectangles approximately 1½x10cm/¾-4in, then rolling gently. Plait together the strips in bunches of three, until you have nine braids.
Put the body in the centre of the semicircle, and arrange the plaits coming outwards from it. Curl each plait back in towards the centre so that the ‘feathers’ curl round like hooks at the end. In each of these small loops, place a ball of foil, pushing firmly into place – this keeps each hole open for a mini-egg to go in after baking.
Leave the dough to prove, covered with an oiled plastic bag, for 40-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
For the decorative dough, mix together the flour with 40ml/1½fl oz of water, the butter and a pinch of salt. Knead to combine and then colour a small portion with yellow, then the remaining with blue or green. Make eyes and a beak shapes for the peacock, and use the remaining dough to make decorative twists or feather shapes.
Once the dough has proved, brush with the beaten egg, add the dough decorations, and bake for 40 minutes, covering with foil if necessary.
While baking, paint the mini-eggs with bright food colours to make the ‘eyes’ of the peacock feathers.
Remove the foil balls and slot in the mini-eggs.
The decorative dough is also known as dead dough or bakers’ clay - this is a dough that does not contain yeast or baking powder.