Thursday, 18 December 2014

Cranberry & Stilton Loaf

For a lactose intolerant, the nation-wide obsession with cheese boards at Christmas always seems baffling to me. I really hate the smell of cheese too, so the thought of having another calorie-laden course based around such a horrid food is ridiculously unappealing.

However, I can appreciate that not everyone is as weird as me, and for some the prospect of gorging on enough cheese, crackers and posh chutney to sink a battleship while settling down on the sofa to watch the likes of Bad Santa is potentially one of the best things about the festive season.

I'm absolutely loving finally mastering bread, so when I came across this Paul Hollywood recipe for a Cranberry & Stilton Loaf I knew it had to be included in my series of Christmas posts. This flavoursome bread is a delicious alternative to cheese and biscuits, it's ridiculously Christmassy, and let's be honest, everyone loves the smell of freshly baked bread!

The original recipe for this loaf can be found in Paul Hollywood's ah-may-zing book How to Bake (which I would totally recommend putting on your Christmas list or running out to buy at the last minute for any baking mad friends). It's also below with my notes and pictures, as usual.


500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g salt
10g instant yeast
30g unsalted butter, softened
320ml cool water
100g dried cranberries
150g Stilton, crumbled


Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl (or a free standing electric mixer with a dough hook) and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the butter and three-quarters of the water and turn the mixture around with your fingers or gently start to mix.

Continue to add the rest of the water a little at a time until you've picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all the water (I didn't need to) or you may need to add a little more, it all depends on your dough. It's best to err on the soft not soggy side. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 5-10 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft, smooth skin.

When your dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until at least doubled in size - this could take as little as an hour or up to three, so just be patient! Mine took just over an hour and a half, and by the time I came to use it it was enormous!

Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.

Tip your dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Without knocking it back, flatten it out with your hands, then roll out using a rolling pin into a rectangle about 35 x 25cm, with the long edge facing you.

Sprinkle the cranberries and Stilton on the top as evenly as you can.

Roll the dough up from the closest edge into a sausage and press along the seam to seal it. Coil the sausage up into a spiral and put it onto the prepared baking tray.

Put the tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave it to prove for an hour, or until the dough is at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 220C and put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up.

When the dough has risen and feels light to tough fill the roasting tray with hot water and put the bread in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. If it starts to brown really quickly but doesn't sound hollow, then top with a tin foil hat and return to the oven to finish baking.

Cool on a wire rack and enjoy! Now it looks pretty plain on the outside but don't be fooled...

…when you open it up, you're greeted with the full effect!

This is best served on the day it's made as it can go a little dry by the next day. However, it does keep for a couple of days as it tastes EPIC toasted and smothered in butter.

This went down really, really well at home! If anything it could do with more filling as while proving the dough increased in size far beyond what I was expecting and so the ratio of bread to filling probably isn't as Paul Hollywood originally intended… In future I'll add more cranberries and maybe 50g more Stilton? Feel free to replace the cheese with whichever you prefer - don't feel restrained by the Stilton - but you could also use this as the perfect opportunity to use up any strong, crumbly cheese leftover after guests/you (shh no-one needs to know!) have attacked the cheese board.

Will you be tempted to try out a Cranberry & Stilton Loaf this Christmas? Do let me know if you do: I'd love to hear how you get on!

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