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Festive Breads

Posted on December 17, 2016

While the humble white loaf can be the staple of many a sandwich in your Christmas buffet spread, a little imagination can take your festive loaves to a new level and transform them into a real celebration dish.

Here’s our pick of the best sweet Christmas breads…

Panettone is a type of sweet bread loaf popular in Italy, the Mediterranean and South America, which is usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year. It is made during a long process that involves ‘curing’ the dough, then proving it for several days to give the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics. Panettone usually contains candied orange, citron, lemon zest and raisins, which are added dry and not soaked, and is traditionally served in slices with sweet liqueur, such as amaretto, or desert wine.

Stollen is a traditional German fruit bread made with yeast, water and flour, with zest usually added to the dough. Candied orange and citrus peel, raisins and almonds, and warm spices like cardamom and cinnamon are also added. While stollen is like regular, sweetened fruit bread, because it is slathered with melted unsalted butter and rolled in sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven, it retains its shape and moisture more easily.

Pulla is a type of bread flavoured with cardamom and often iced and decorated, that is popular in Scandinavia. Usually baked as a loaf or in a cake pan, the sweet, aromatic bread is topped with vanilla cream and chopped walnuts, and usually requires about a day's worth of preparation. Once the dough has been proved, it can be shaped or plaited to make the finished dish more decorative and festive.

Makowiec, or poppy seed roll, is a traditional Polish pastry which combines a roll of sweet yeast bread with a rich, dense, bittersweet poppy seed filling. The dough is made from flour, sugar, egg yolk, milk or sour cream, butter and yeast. It is sometimes flavoured with lemon or orange zest, or rum. As well as ground poppy seeds, the filling might also contain raisins, sugar, honey or jam, rum, and vanilla. An alternative filling is a paste of minced walnuts, raisins, rum, lemon rind and chopped walnuts. Both versions can be spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg or clove.

Cinnamon rolls are sweet bread buns served commonly across northern Europe and north America. The main ingredients are flour, cinnamon, sugar, and butter and are sometimes served with cream cheese or icing. They consist of a rolled sheet of yeast-leavened dough on to which a cinnamon and sugar mixture is sprinkled over a thin coat of butter. The dough is then rolled, cut into individual portions, and baked or deep fried.

Tea loaf is an English cake made with fruit, cinnamon and other spices, which is traditionally served sliced and spread with butter. It gets its name because the fruit is soaked in cold tea to plump it before mixing it into the batter. There are regional variations of this type of bread across the UK, including the Welsh bara brith and the Irish barmbrack. The addition of orange zest and cranberries can give it a Christmassy twist.

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