I love mince pies, I love cinnamon buns, and I wanted to try to bring the two together to create a festive sweet bread. The result: a cinnamon and mincemeat tear-and-share snowflake.
All in all I was pretty happy. The only tricky thing was that the mincemeat made it hard to chop through the layers, and I made the mistake of trying to seal the ends before I’d twisted all the strands, which made the bread bulbous and difficult to handle. As a result, some of the strands came loose during the bake. But that aside, a decent recipe I think. And I also didn’t have quite enough mincemeat, so I added a few raisins and a glug of brandy, which did the trick!
Give it a go and let me know how you get on!
(edit: I’ve recently decreased the amount of flour to make it a bit less dry. I now use 400 rather than 450g – which makes it harder to stretch out the dough to the full size, but the dough itself is far better)
400g strong white bread flour
2 tsp active dried yeast
A pinch of salt
30g unsalted butter, melted
180ml milk, warmed
2 eggs, separated
80g dark brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
Warm the milk slightly and melt the butter. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl, before adding the milk, butter and egg yolks.
Mix in the bowl until combined – I do this by hand – and then turn out onto a work surface and knead for 10 minutes until it loses its graininess and goes silky and smooth.
Rub a little flavourless oil in the bowl – I used groundnut. Then shape the dough into a ball, roll it around in the oil, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place until it doubles in size. Since this is an enriched dough, it takes a little longer to rise than regular dough; probably around 2 hours.
Once the dough has doubled in size, pre-heat the oven to 180c. Then warm your work surface a little, to stop the dough getting cold and tightening. I poured some nearly-boiling water on the surface and then dried it off.
Tip the dough onto the work surface and de-gas it with the tips of your fingers. Then roll it tightly into a cylindrical shape and divide it into four equal portions.
Roll the first portion into a ball and then, on a lightly floured surface, roll it out with a rolling pin, until it is just larger than a dinner plate. (You will actually need a dinner plate to measure it!)
Transfer the dough onto a piece of baking paper, then lay the plate face down on top and push gently to create a circular mark. This is the area where your filling will go.
Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and then spread half of the mixture onto the dough, keeping it inside the circle.
Repeat the process with the second ball of dough, putting it on top of the cinnamon layer and again pressing down with the plate to mark out the space for the filling. This time, spread the mincemeat across the dough. I used my fingers to spread it, as I thought that dragging it with a spoon would likely rip the thin dough.
Repeat with the third layer, adding the cinnamon sugar, and finally put the fourth layer on the top. Press down with the dinner plate and use that as a guide to trim the excess dough off with a sharp knife. You should now have a nice, circular, 4-tier layered bread.
Take a small glass and press it lightly onto the centre of the dough, and then with a sharp knife cut from the edge of the glass to the outside of the dough. Repeat this at quarters, so that you have cuts at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Then halve each strand. And halve it again. You should have 16 equal sized strands.
Leaving the glass in place, take hold of two strands then twist them in opposite directions. You want to twist them over twice and end with the four layers standing vertically. You can do the strands one at a time if it’s easier, but remember to treat them like pairs and ensure that you twist each strand in the opposite direction to the one next to it.
Once all are twisted, pinch the ends of the strands together to create a point, and then push the point in a little, to cause the strands to puff out. This is a bit tricky to do, as some of the layers will want to come apart. But once you’ve done it, you should be left with a tight snowflake look, with the fillings showing through.
Remove the glass, cover with a slightly damp tea towel, and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
Once the dough’s rested, move it onto a baking sheet (you can keep the paper under it) and tighten up any loose ends that have come undone. Then gently egg wash the bread using the leftover egg whites. I used a silicon brush, which won’t mark the dough too much. Try to work from the centre outwards, so you don’t brush the filling onto the top of the bread. Then bake in the oven until golden brown. Mine took a little over 20 minutes.
Once it’s ready, leave it to cool, so you’re not shovelling molten cinnamon sugar into your mouth! Then serve and allow people to tear strands off to their hearts’ content.