Learn to bake three of my favourite Christmas breads in time for the big day. After this course you'll be well equipped with new ideas to wow your guests over the festive season.

Traditional Stollen

Cranberry and rosemary wreath bread

Mini Pannetone

Top tips for bread success

1. Do not add flour when you are kneading! – The dough might stick to the table at first, and the butter might too but don’t be tempted to dust it with four while you are kneading. It will come together nicely in time.

2. Use room temperature water always. – Whatever the temperature of your room, match that with the water. If you take one thing from this article to help your bread making let it be this. Seriously.

3. Rest your dough at room temperature – Your room temperature dough is happiest resting at room temperature. It will love it believe me. It will get upset if you change the temperature so don’t worry about looking for some place warm to rest it.

4. Relax! – Don’t stress about kneading technique, just move, press, stretch the dough however you like for 8 minutes. Don’t stress about shaping technique just do your best. If it’s puffing slowly, your house might be chilly, just wait longer. If you follow tips 1-3 the only cause for failure will be that your yeast is too old and has let you down.

5. Share it with me – I love seeing your loaves. Share your success with me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @bakewithjack. And if you have questions send them to me there too. Have fun!

Baking with steam

All of the breads we make in this course will benefit from the use of steam in your oven, and I find this the best way to do it at home:

1. Put a deep roasting tray in the bottom of the oven before preheating.

2. Boil the kettle when you are ready to load the oven.

3. Load all your dough into the oven.

4. Pour the contents of the kettle into the roasting tray below, about 2-3cm deep (be careful!).

5. Shut the door quick!

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Stollen

Makes two stollen

Note: The Marzipan here is my go-to recipe, it makes quite a large batch which you can freeze to use for other things, or your next batch of stollen!

For the dough

135g Room temperature milk

50g Whole egg (1 medium egg)

20g Fresh yeast or 10g dry yeast

60g Golden caster sugar

375g Strong white bread flour

6g Salt

1tbsp Mixed spice

75g Room temperature butter

For the filling

75g Raisins

75g Sultanas

75g Mixed peel

For the Marzipan

300g Ground Almonds

150g Caster Sugar

150g Icing Sugar

1 Medium Egg

To Finish

A good knob of soft butter

Icing sugar

Method

The day before you bake

Place your raisins and sultanas in a large bowl and pour in enough water to cover them. Leave them to soak overnight to plump up and get super juicy. The following day drain them off and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Making the dough

In a large mixing bowl weigh your yeast, milk, and egg. Whisk them together. Add the sugar and whisk that in too.

Add the flour, salt and spice to the bowl along with the butter broken up into pieces.

Mix everything together with your dough scraper until it comes together into a dough.

Knead the dough on a clean table for 8 minutes resisting the urge to dust it with flour. It will be sticky at first but use a dough scraper to have a tidy every now and again, and to loosen the dough from the table.

Next, dust the table lightly. Spread out the dough on the floured surface as far as it will go without tearing and sprinkle over half of the soaked fruit and peel, pat them lightly with your palms to stick to the dough. Roll them up inside like a swiss roll. Give the sausage a quarter turn and push flat again with your fingers and knuckles. Sprinkle the remaining fruit over the top and roll up again with the fruit inside. Cup your hands underneath the dough, turning as you do so to make it into a rough ball shape.

Place the ball of dough back into the bowl, dust the top with flour and cover with a clean cloth.

Leave to rest at room temperature for 90 minutes.

Making your Marzipan

While your dough rests you can make the Marzipan. Mix the dry ingredients together then add the egg. Keep mixing until a dough forms and knead with your hands until it has all come together. This makes enough for six stollen, so cut into six pieces, roll them into sausages about 12cm long, and wrap individually in clingfilm. You’ll need two for now and the rest you can label and freeze until next time.

Dividing and shaping

When your dough has puffed up nicely, dust the table with a little flour and turn the dough out onto it. Press the dough all over with your fingers and knuckles to de-gas, and then divide it into two pieces. Fold each piece into a ball.

Take one of your dough balls and push a rolling pin down horizontally across the centre. Roll up and down slightly creating a flattened area in the middle about 10cm wide, with a bulge of dough at the top and bottom.

Lay your marzipan sausage in that flat gap, and fold the top part of the dough over the top so the two bulges meet. Press your fingers down between the rolled up marzipan and the two pieces of dough to seal the gap and transfer to a large parchment lined baking tray. Shape up the second stollen and place it on the tray next to the first. Give them plenty of room to expand.

Resting and baking

Cover again with a clean cloth and allow 60-90 minutes for them to prove up, towards the end of proving preheat the oven to 180°C Fan/Gas Mark 7.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the stollen from the oven, and carefully transfer them to a wire rack.

To finish

Dip a pastry brush into your soft butter and brush all over while the stollen is still hot. Then dust liberally with icing sugar and leave to cool completely before slicing.?

Christmas Wreath Bread

Makes one wreath

160g Room temperature water

6g Fresh yeast (3g Dry Yeast)

250g Strong white bread flour

4g Salt

3g Chopped rosemary

15g Soft Butter

40g Dried Cranberries

For decoration

Poppy & sesame seeds

Method

Making the dough

In a large mixing bowl weigh your yeast and water. Mix them together with your dough scraper.

Add the flour, salt and rosemary to the bowl along with the butter broken up into pieces.

Mix everything together with your dough scraper until it comes together into a dough.

Knead the dough on a clean table for 8 minutes resisting the urge to dust it with flour.

Next, dust the table lightly. Spread out the dough on the floured surface as far as it will go without tearing and sprinkle over half of the cranberries, pat them lightly with your palms to stick to the dough. Roll them up inside like a swiss roll. Give the sausage a quarter turn and push flat again with your fingers and knuckles. Sprinkle the remaining fruit over the top and roll up again with the fruit inside. Cup your hands underneath the dough, turning as you do so to make it into a rough ball shape.

Place the dough back into the bowl, dust the top and cover with a clean cloth.

Leave to rest at room temperature for 60 minutes

Dividing and shaping

When your dough has puffed up nicely, dust the table with a little flour, turn the dough out onto it, and press with fingertips to knock back and flatten slightly into a circle. Fold the top down and the bottom up to make a rectangle. Cut the dough into 4 pieces.

One by one, flatten each piece of dough and roll up like a swiss roll into 4 short sausages. Next, roll them with your palms to a length of around 50cm. Dust them as little as you can while you roll them to stop them from getting sticky.

Now dampen a clean j cloth and put your seeds into two large bowls. Roll one of your sausages of dough on the cloth to dampen all over and toss in the bowl of poppy seeds, and do the same with a second sausage in the sesame.

To shape your four-strand plait, place all four strands vertically on the table and pinch the tops together lightly to join. Think of your four strands like two pairs. The left pair and the right pair.

Starting with the right pair fold the right piece over the left. Then, do the same with the left pair, right over left. Next take the two pieces now in the middle and cross them left over right and that’s it! Repeat till the end:

Right over left, right over left, left over right in the middle.

When you get to the end, pinch that end together to stick, and roll each end making them pointed. Bring both ends together to make your plait into a ring and place on a parchment lined tray.

Resting and baking

Cover your dough with a cloth and rest at room temperature for 45-60 minutes to prove up nicely.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7.

Bake your wreath with steam for 30-35 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

TIP

If you will be displaying your wreath as part of a cheeseboard, it’s really lovely to put a camembert or Chaource cheese in the middle. If you are, you’ll need to bake your wreath with something in the middle to make sure the hole is the right size and stays the right size while proving. I use a ramekin, buttered on the outside so it doesn’t stick. Put it in the middle of your ring in the shaping stage and remove it after baking.

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Mini Panettone

This recipe makes eight mini panettone

You’ll need eight paper panettone cases, 70mm base width and 50mm high

For the preferment

80g Room temperature water

2g Fresh Yeast (1g Dry Yeast)

100g Strong white bread flour

For the final dough

20g Fresh Yeast (10g Dry Yeast)

20g Room temperature water

4 Medium egg yolks

20g Honey

150g Strong white bread flour

3g Salt

30g Caster sugar

1tsp Vanilla extract

100g Room temperature butter

For the filling

100g Soaked sultanas

100g Chopped candied orange peel

To Finish

1 Egg

Pearl Sugar

Method

The day before you bake

Ahead of time you’ll need to make your pre-ferment and soak your sultanas. I normally do these the day before and leave them overnight.

Making your preferment

Mix the water and yeast together in a large mixing bowl, add the flour and mix into a dough with your scraper. Cover with cling film and leave at room temperature to ferment for 8-10 hours.

Soaking your sultananas

Cover your sultanas with water. Leave overnight at room temperature to soak up the liquid and plump up. The following day drain them off and pat them dry on kitchen paper.

Making your dough

In a large mixing bowl weigh your yeast, water, egg yolks and honey. Whisk them together to dissolve the yeast.

Add the preferment, flour, salt, sugar and vanilla to the bowl and mix everything together with your dough scraper until it comes together into a dough.

Knead the dough on a clean table for 8 minutes resisting the urge to dust it with flour. It will be sticky at first but use a dough scraper to have a tidy every now and again, and to loosen the dough from the table.

Next, you’ll need to incorporate the butter and you can do this in the bowl to make it less messy. Put the dough into the bowl and put a third of the remaining butter on the top. Dimple it all over with your finger tips, pushing the butter into the dough. Then keep folding it over itself, pushing the dough into the middle, rotating the bowl and repeating. At first it will look as if the butter will never go into the dough but keep going and the slippery dough will take on the butter and become silky. When it does, do exactly the same thing with the other two thirds of butter. Once the butter has been taken by the dough sprinkle over your sultanas and orange zest and work them into the dough in exactly the same way. Stop when you feel like the fruit is evenly dispersed throughout the dough.

Rest the dough for three minutes on the table, then shape it into a smooth ball by dusting the top, flipping the dough over, pinching a piece from the edge and folding it across the middle. Repeat this fold, working your way all around the dough making a tight ball, 8-10 folds should be about right. Roll the dough back over, place it back into the bowl, dust a little flour on the top and leave to rest with a cloth on top for 2 hours at room temperature.

Dividing and shaping

When the dough has risen nicely, turn it out of the bowl upside down onto a lightly dusted surface so it is sticky side up. Press with your fingers to flatten slightly and cut into equal sized pieces.

Take a piece of dough, pinch it from the edge with a finger and thumb, lift it and stretch it over the top. Repeat this all the way round to make a ball and turn it back the right way up. Place your hand over the dough ball, keep your hand on its side and bend your fingers. A combination of making big circles with your hand and pressure on the dough will allow you to roll it up into a nice tight ball. The top should always stay on the top and you should feel the dough ball become tighter as you roll. Use a light touch here as the dough can get quite sticky quite quickly, dust sparingly if you need to. Be swift, the longer you handle your dough the stickier it will become!

Dust each ball lightly as you go with flour and pop them into a paper panettone case.

Resting and baking

Cover again very loosely with cling film and allow 3-4 hours for them to prove up. Towards the end of proving preheat the oven to 180°C Fan/Gas Mark 7

Beat your egg and use this to very carefully brush over the top of each panettone, then sprinkle a little pearl sugar over the top.

Bake for 15-17 minutes and allow to cool before eating.

Game Changer:

If you want to improve the flavour and texture of your panettone making them SUPER soft and light you can refrigerate your dough overnight. After you have kneaded the dough, added the fruit, and put it back into its bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilmed and pop it into the fridge for tomorrow. Then, the following day, take it out from the fridge, give it 30 minutes to an hour to rest at room temperature and continue the shaping, resting and baking. This time your dough might take a little longer to rise up because it’ll be coming up from cold depending on the temperature of your kitchen on the day. Give them as much tie as they need get nice and big before you bake them.