Baking this scented and spiced Christmas bread marks the beginning of the festive celebrations and makes the house smell divine. Join me this year as I make this simple yeasted bread that’s naturally gluten free and studded with juicy cranberries, figs and nourishing pistachios. I love slicing this spiced bread thinly and eating it with fermented cashew cheese or my faux foie gras, but it’s also delicious toasted and spread with cultured butter. If you can’t find fresh yeast, by all means substitute with one tablespoon of active dried yeast instead.
The festive period is often a time that brings anxiety about what to cook for friends and loved ones. It’s a time of year where people might be cooking plant-based food for the first time or planning festive centrepieces outside of their usual repertoire or comfort zone. Inside the Membership, I’ve collated my favourite plant-forward festive centrepieces including; miso glazed winter squash with black garlic and chestnut rice; nut roast revisited with pistachios and redcurrants; or a deconstructed version served with cauliflower steaks and a richly umami-flavour mushroom gravy and roasted cabbage with blood orange sauce and furikake. There is also the aforementioned richly spiced Christmas bread studded with dried fruit and nuts that you can watch me make in one of my most popular classes, and a rather wonderful faux foie gras, which by the way, is delicious served with thin toasted slices of the Christmas bread. This year, I’m really excited to share my Festive Toast recipe to the list. A wonderful brunch plate for a laid back, lazy morning gathering any time over the festive period – sourdough toast topped with roast parsnip purée, sticky umami shiitake mushrooms, sautéed greens with redcurrants and a toasted hazelnut crumb.
Deciding what to cook and eat at Christmas can sometimes feel overwhelming, but I like to keep it simple and balanced with warm, hearty and nourishing meals. To borrow the words of Jeanette Winterson, ‘Cooking is an everyday ordinary miracle. Whatever you cook, remember that.’
You can also watch me make this bread (and score the top) in the monthly classes archives inside the Membership.Print
300g buckwheat flour
75g tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch)
20g fresh yeast (or 1 tbsp active dried)
½ cup cranberries
½ cup dried figs, thinly sliced
½ cup shelled (unsalted) pistachios, coarsely chopped
500g (2 1/4 cups) almond milk
75g coconut blossom syrup
35g psyllium husk powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 ½ tsp sea salt
Pour the almond milk into a small pan with the coconut blossom syrup. Heat very gently until it’s just warm. Crumble in the yeast and stir. Leave for 10 minutes until frothy. Whisk in the psyllium powder and leave for a further 10 minutes to gel.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the buckwheat flour, tapioca flour, salt, cranberries, figs, pistachios, spices and zests. Pour in half of the yeasted milk and mix with a dough hook on medium speed for a few minutes until the dough comes together. Alternatively, you can mix the dough in a large bowl with your hands. Add more of the yeasted milk mixture in increments. You should end up with a stickier dough than is usual when making bread dough – this is normal. I usually find 3/4 of the yeasted mixture is about right, but you’ll need to gauge it, as flours can be milled differently and therefore may be more or less absorbent.
Dust a work surface with buckwheat flour and tip out the dough onto the surface. Form into a ball, dusting with more flour if it’s sticky. Dust a proofing basket or bowl with extra buckwheat flour and place the dough inside the basket and leave to proof for an hour to an hour and a half. Cover the dough with a tea towel and leave in a warm place.
Preheat the oven to 200° C/400°F.
Put a cast iron pan in the oven (around 5 quarts in size) or line a baking sheet.* Turn out the boule onto a board dusted with buckwheat flour, or a piece of greaseproof paper, and dust the top of the boule with a little extra of the flour. If you want to decorate the top, you’ll need to use a baking lame (baker’s knife) to score the dough. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50-60 mins. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.
The bread will last up to 3 days, wrapped in a clean tea towel or muslin. Alternatively, you can freeze the loaf for up to 3 months.
* I like to bake bread in a cast iron pan because it acts as a steam chamber, creating a beautifully crisp and golden crust. If you don’t have a cast iron pan with a lid, you can bake the bread dough directly on a baking sheet, but the crust will be less golden and not as crispy. You can create steam by putting a shallow metal pan at the bottom of the oven while it preheats. When you put the baking sheet with the bread dough into the oven, pour 1 to 2 cups of boiling water into the empty pan and close the door immediately. The resulting steam will help to develop a colour and crust similar to the one achieved in a cast iron pan.