15g/1/2 oz fresh yeast OR 2 teaspoons dried yeast
180ml/ 6 fl oz/ 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
450g/ 1-lb / 4 cups white bread flour
75g / 3 oz / 6 tbspn caster sugar
2.5 ml / 1/2 tspn salt
75g / 3oz / 6 tbspn butter, softened
grated rind of 1/2 an orange
5ml / 1 tspn ground cinnamon
1.5ml / 1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch of ground aniseed
8 walnut halves
1 egg white, beaten, for glazing
You can replace the ground aniseed with 1 teaspoon of ouzo.
In a large Mixing Bowl add the yeast and the milk and stir until the yeast has dissolved.
Stir in just 115g/ 4oz / 1 cup of the flour.
Using a wooden spoon, stir to make a thin batter.
Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add this to the yeast mixture and beat in.
Gradually add the rest of the flour and salt and beat in.
Beat in the softened butter, then knead until it becomes a soft, but not sticky dough.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and place in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size (about an hour).
Place on a floured surface and knead a few times to knock back.
Cut off a small piece of dough – enough to create 2 ropes for decoration.
Cover and set aside.
Stretch the dough out into an oblong shape and sprinkle the orange rind, ground cinnamon and cloves over the dough.
Bring the sides up and over to cover the flavourings, then gently knead the dough until the orange and spices are evenly blended through the dough.
Shape the dough into a round bread shape.
Lightly grease a Baking Sheet and place the bread on it.
Take the spare dough you cut off earlier and knead the aniseed into it.
Cut this dough in half and shape into 2 long ropes.
Make a cut in the ends of the rope lengthways about 2-3 inches/ 7 cm.
Make a cross on top of the bread with the ropes.
Curl each split end into a circle, in opposite directions.
Place a walnut half into the middle of these circles.
Cover the dough with lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 190 oC, 375 oF, Gas 5.
Using a Pastry Brush, glaze the dough with the beaten egg white.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden.
Place the baked Christmas bread on a wire Cooling Rack to cool completely.