Easter Simnel Bread

Easter Simnel Bread

Simnel cake is to Easter what Christmas cake is to Christmas. Love it or hate it, it’s the embodiment of Easter in a bake. However, I have to admit I’ve never been much of a fan of fruit cake, and so I’ve decided to morph the flavours of simnel into a bread. It has all the classic almonds, spices and fruit found in a simnel cake, but it’s also light, soft and beautifully flavoured with a womph of rum. Easter in my family is a very social occasion and we tend to get the whole family together and have a nice meal. This bread is perfect for an event like this as the twirled fingers which make up the loaf can be torn off tear-and-share style, making it perfect for social occasions!

It may seem weird that there’s balls of marzipan on top of the loaf, but here’s a little simnel fact to get you in the Easter spirit. Traditionally simnel cake is topped with 11 balls of caramelised marzipan to represent the 12 disciples, minus Judas. I’ve honoured this tradition here, topping the loaf with marzipan to make it truly simnel and to give it a bit of a wow factor.

Recipe

Makes 1 loaf (serves about 13)

Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 200g Raisins
  • Zest 1 Lemon
  • Zest 1 Orange
  • 2 tbsp Rum
  • 1 tbsp Orange juice
  • 520g Strong white bread flour
  • 12g Salt
  • 30g Caster sugar
  • 2 tsp Mixed spice
  • 3 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 10g Fast-action dried yeast
  • 40g Butter
  • 50ml Milk
  • 2 Large eggs, beaten
  • 200g Marzipan

To Decorate:

  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • Apricot jam to glaze
  • 100g Icing sugar
  • 30g Flaked almonds

Method

  1. Put the raisins, lemon zest, orange zest, rum, and orange juice into a bowl. Mix together and then cover with clingfilm or a tea towel and leave to soak for at least an hour, or even better overnight.
  2. The next day start by putting the flour, salt, sugar, mixed spice and yeast into a bowl. Make sure the yeast and salt don’t come into direct contact as the salt will kill the yeast. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon.
  3. Next add the butter, milk, eggs and 135ml of water and mix together to form a soft dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled or floured worktop and knead for about 10 minutes until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
  5. Form the dough into a ball and then tip into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.
  6. When ready knock back the dough by kneading it for about 20 seconds on a lightly floured worktop. Then split the dough in half, wrap one of the halves in clingfilm and set it to one side.
  7. Take the other half and re-form it into a ball. Roll it out into a circle with a diameter of about 30cm – using a plate or large, round object as a guide can help with this. The dough will spring back and resist being stretched so just persevere until it stays in the shape you need it. Transfer this sheet of dough to a lined baking tray.
  8. Lightly dust your work top with icing sugar and roll out 50g of the marzipan to a circle with a diameter about 28cm, or generally a couple of cm less than your first bread circle. Place this marzipan disc on top of the disc of dough.
  9. Sprinkle over the raisins which have been soaking in the rum and zests to make an even layer.
  10. Roll out the second lump of dough into another circle with a diameter about 31cm wide. Brush the edge of the first circle with water and then lay the second dough circle on top of the first.
  11. Tuck the dough underneath itself around the edge to seal the two discs and make it into a neat circle. Next take a pair of kitchen scissors and cut 12, 10cm deep incisions into the circle to make a sun shape. Then take each strip and twist it twice clockwise to get a flower effect. Cover loosely with clingfilm and leave to rise for about an hour.
  12. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg to glaze and then put in the oven to bake for about 45 minutes until risen and golden brown. If it starts to burn cover it with tin foil to stop it browning too much.
  13. Put the apricot jam into a pan and heat gently to loosen it up. When the loaf is brought out of the oven brush with the warmed apricot jam to glaze.
  14. Roll the rest of the marzipan into 11 smooth balls, and then lightly brush with a blowtorch (or put under the grill) to caramelise. When the loaf is cool place balls in a circle on the top. Mix the icing sugar with 2 tbsp of water to make a just-pourable water icing. Drizzle this icing over the loaf, then sprinkle with flaked almonds and serve!

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

 

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