Another baking tradition of mine at this time of year is to make sweet festive buns or enriched bread. Last year was clementine and almond, and I love to make stollen as well. After seeing pictures online of snowflake or star-shaped bread (especially by @violaminerva, whose Nordic Winter Cookbook is out soon!) I wanted to give it a go myself – it looks really complicated, but is surprisingly simple once you get the knack! I picked up the method here and made a sweet chestnut and vanilla filling inspired by the most delicious Bonne Maman spread I got from Elliott’s Edinburgh last Christmas. It makes a bit more filling than you need and I’ve been enjoying mine atop toast and spooned into porridge. To make the chestnut and vanilla snowflake bread, you will need:
For the dough:
250g plain flour
25g soft brown sugar
For the filling (makes more than you need):
50g soft brown sugar
100g vacuum packed whole chestnuts
2 tsp vanilla extract.
Melt the butter and milk together and allow to cool to body temperature. Add the yeast and set aside for a few minutes – it will start to froth a little. Mix the wet ingredients into the rest of the dry and knead until the mixture forms a dough, then continue to knead for another 10 minutes. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place until double in size.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Blend the chestnuts into a paste with the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. It will be a little grainy at first, but scrape down the sides and soon it will come together like a nut butter.
Once risen, knock your dough back and knead for another minute. Divide into four equal pieces (I weighed mine) and roll the first out into a circle 2 mm thick. Add two tablespoons of the filling and spread evenly. Roll out the next circle and place on top, followed by two tablespoons more of filling. Repeat with the third layer and more filling, then top with the final circle. Cut any scraps around the edge so you have an even circle, and place a small bowl in the middle (3 – 4 cm wide) to make an indent.
Cut the dough all the way through the layers into sixteen even strips: I started with cuts at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, then did half again, then half again. Take two strips and twist them away from each other, then press the two ends together. Repeat until you have 12 points in your snowflake. Don’t worry if it looks a bit rustic, it’s homemade! Rest for 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge then bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes at 180C Fan. Glaze with some warmed golden syrup then dust with icing sugar and serve.