Although I had never heard of Stir Up Sunday before, the idea greatly appealed to me: traditionally the last Sunday before Advent was used in Britain to make the Christmas pudding. The family would gather and each member would get their turn stirring the pudding. With the advent of convenience food, however, this tradition is being lost. Although we don’t have Christmas pudding in Germany, around the end of November we start our own Christmas baking: stollen, gingerbread and other delights need a few weeks to develop their flavours, so in order to have them ready for the Advent period, or even Christmas, we need to get baking, too. It’s a wonderful time for the whole family to get involved – just have a look at the beautiful gingerbread we made last year! I’m usually lagging a little behind everybody else and will start my Christmas baking on the first Sunday of Advent, which happens to be in a week’s time. But to get you all as excited as we already are, I will present you with these delicious little brioches: a cross, really, between traditional brioches and panettone, they will make for a lovely Sunday breakfast treat. Their big draw is that you can prepare them the evening before, leaving you with only the baking to do in the morning. Their Christmassy aroma will definitely get you in the mood for Stir Up Sunday – and who knows, you might even end up stirring your own pudding this year!
Christmassy Brioches (makes 12 small brioches or one medium-sized loaf tin)
- 260 grams plain flour
- 1 teaspoon dried yeast
- 3 tablespoons lukewarm milk
- 20 grams caster sugar
- 3 medium-sized eggs
- 1 pinch salt
- 125 grams cold, unsalted butter, diced
Sift the flour into a bowl, scoop out a hole in the middle where you dissolve the yeast in the milk. Leave for 5-10 minutes, or until the yeast starts bubbling away. Once your yeast is active, mix in all the other ingredients except for the butter. Then add 1/3 of the butter and knead until it is incorporated, then proceed with the second and the third batch. Use a mixer if possible – to work in the butter is no mean feat and will take you 10 minutes! You dough is ready when the butter is fully incorporated into a smooth ball that comes off the sides of your bowl. Cover and leave to rest for around an hour or until it has doubled in size.
- 1 handful raisins, ideally soaked in a little rum
- 1 handful mixed peel, finely diced
- the zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon milk
Carefully grease your individual brioche tins or a loaf tin. Once your dough has doubled in size, add the above ingredients and knead until they are evenly distributed. It shouldn’t take longer than a minute or so. If you are planning to make small brioches with little heads, divide the dough into three parts. Divide two of them into 6 pieces each to form 12 individual balls, which you place in the prepared tins. For the little ‘heads’ on the brioches, form 12 small balls out of the remaining dough, but make sure that their surface is smooth and there are no raisins sticking out of the surface as they invariably burn. Place the ‘heads’ on top of your brioches. Obviously, if you are using a loaf tin you simply plop it all into the tin. Remember the raisins, though! Cover the whole lot with clingfilm and leave to prove in the fridge overnight. The next morning, remove the brioches from the fridge and heat the oven to 180C. Once your oven has reached the required temperature, remove the cling film from the brioches. Mix the egg yolk with the milk and brush the brioches with the mix before placing them in the oven. Reduce the heat to 160C and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. A loaf needs to bake for around 40-45 minutes – use a toothpick to check it is fully baked. You’ll be surprised how light and fluffy these little brioche are – you could easily double the amount of fruit to bring out the panettone flavour but I decided to keep it a little in the background. They are definitely moreish, so get out your brioche tins and get started.