2 packets active yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 litre – 2 pints milk
225 g – 8 oz unsalted butter
120 g – 4½ oz melted butter
1.7 kg – 3 lb 12 oz plain flour
200 g – 7 oz sugar
handful of dried fruit
Warm the milk in a saucepan until it is lukewarm. In a small bowl place 100 ml of the warm milk along with the 2 tablespoons sugar and the yeast. Stir and cover, set aside in a warm, draught-free place and leave to stand for 5-7 minutes. SWift the flour and salt into a bowl and set aside till needed. Beat the eggs in a bowl and set aside till needed. In a large mixing bowl, cream the 200g sugar with the 225g butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, a little at a time until you have a creamy mixture. Start adding the flour bit by bit alternating with the yeast mixture until everything comes together to form a smooth dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. (If using a mixer, knead the dough with a dough hook until it is smooth and elastic). Add the melted butter to the dough and knead in well, next add the dried fruit and knead these in well. Place the dough into a bowl and cover with a clean teatowel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour to an hour and a half. Turn the dough back out onto the work surface and ‘knock out’ the air. Replace in the bowl, recover and set aside again for a second rising until doubled in size again.
Turn back out onto a lightly floured work surface and ‘knock out’ the air agin. Shape the dough into braided loaves or small rolls. (here is where you can be really decorative). Place on a greased baking sheet or in baking moulds or tins and set aside to rise again, remembering to cover and place in a warm place. Before placing in oven, brush lightly with a mixture of beaten egg and milk if you want a golden crispy crust.
Pre-heat the oven to 175°C Gas mark 3. Bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown. After baking turn out onto a cooling rack.
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