xmas week 2017 - fruit mince wreath

Welcome to day 3 of Christmas week 2017. This time last year I made a cinnamon and walnut wreath for Christmas which was delicious but I suspected it would taste even better if I added some fruit mince to the mix.

Some of my workmates don't like fruit mince so I told them I'd made an apple, sultana and walnut wreath and it disappeared in the blink of an eye. I made my regular babka dough; covered it with my usual cinnamon and butter filling then added a cup of my cheat's fruit mince. I then sprinkled over a handful of walnuts before rolling and slicing and proving.  

I can't tell you how good my kitchen smelt while I made this. Is it worth the extra effort to shape the babka into a wreath? Probably not but the wreath has a wow factor that a babka just doesn't possess. A word of warning though - you can't just whip the wreath up in a day; it's a definite 2 day process but I think it's worth the effort.

If you want to impress your friends and family for Christmas, here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams; I use unsalted butter and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Fruit Mince Wreath
75g unsalted butter
100mls milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp salt
45g caster sugar
2 tsps dried yeast
1 egg


80 g softened unsalted butter
100 g brown sugar
1 tsp golden or maple syrup
4 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g almond meal
⅓ cup nuts, roughly chopped (macadamias, almonds or walnuts)

Fruit Mince

One 310g bottle of fruit mince
1 green apple, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon thick cut orange marmalade
30 gm (1 oz) melted butter


⅓ cup water
⅓ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick


To make the dough, melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, add milk and vanilla and heat until lukewarm. Mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the centre, then, with motor running, pour the beaten egg into the well and gradually add the milk mixture and knead until smooth and shiny (2-3 minutes). The mixture will be quite soft at this stage. If it's not then you might need to add a little more milk.

Grease a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the greased bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1 hour) or you can leave the dough to prove in the fridge overnight, which is what I usually do. The following day bring the dough back to room temperature while you prepare the filling.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, the syrup and the ground cinnamon. Mix in the almond meal to form a paste, ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture. Set to one side. Put the fruit mince into a mixing bowl. Add the apple, the grated rind, the marmalade then the melted butter and mix until well combined.

Line a baking tray with baking paper or you can use a silicone baking mat. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 cm). Trim the sides to make them even, then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread the filling over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ in/2 cm border all around. Measure out 1 cup of the prepared fruit mince. Spread the fruit mince on top of the filling using the offset spatula then sprinkle over the chopped nuts. Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam. At this stage I usually return the roll back to the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up the filling.

Trim about ¾ in/2 cm off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. If you like, you can just place the cake into a lined loaf tin to make a fruit mince babka. Otherwise, gently squeeze the two ends together to form a wreath showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake onto a baking paper lined oven tray, placing a small greased ovenproof ramekin in the centre of the wreath. Cover the wreath with a large upturned bowl or plastic bag and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the wreath has finished rising. Remove the bowl or plastic bag, place the wreath on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If it’s not ready, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes. If you make this into a fruit mince babka, you'll need to bake the babka for about 30 minutes then test with a skewer as above.

While the wreath is in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a saucepan; place over medium heat and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat and simmer the syrup for 5 minutes. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush the syrup over. It is important to use up all the syrup. Leave the cake until it is just warm, then remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely before serving. If you like you can tie a ribbon to add a festive touch.

You won't use all the fruit mince but it refrigerates well so I put any leftovers back into the bottle and use it to make mince pies just before Christmas.

I hope you get a chance to try this recipe as it's seriously good.

See you all again tomorrow for day 4 of Christmas week.

Bye for now,



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