Hot cross buns

Easter baking: hot cross buns

It’s been a weird week for me. On Tuesday my home country, Belgium, found itself under a very dark cloud. Today is Friday and I feel that the cloud slowly is lifting. I think about what happened a lot. Like a lot of people I have questions. Lots of questions. Am I angry? No, just disappointed that one human would want to hurt another. And that is true for every conflict that is going on anywhere in the world, wether it be war or in the family home. But this is what I believe: we are strong. Like grass. You can step on grass but it doesn’t break. It just bends. And then it raises itself back up to grown some more.

Here in Berlin, spring is becoming more and more present. Small blossoms are appearing on the trees in the street, yellow and purple crocuses as well as snowdrops are pushing their way through the soil and grass; strong, green grass; is growing again. Today is the start of the Easter weekend. For me, it has always been the moment where I choose to leave the dark winter days behind and focus on the new life and opportunities that spring brings. So, despite what happened this week, I am going to keep focusing on the good things.

We are all home for Easter this year. This doesn’t happen often when you have a pilot husband. I am so excited about that, that I think I’ve made too many plans for things we can do together. On top of that, our son is turning 3 only 2 days after Easter. I suppose we are looking at 5 solid days of celebrations. To start off this Easter weekend, S. (home from Kita with fever) and I made these lovely hot cross buns. The list of ingredients is on the longer side but once you have them all assembled it’s a piece of cake. The mixer does most of the work. Then it’s just the waiting and the finishing touches to do. Class them as bread and have them for breakfast. Call them buns and have them with your afternoon coffee. Or just have them because you want something sweet that isn’t a chocolate easter egg.

I now have a jar of mixed spice. What do you think I should bake with it?

Hot cross buns for Easter

Hot cross buns

makes about 18 buns

Ingredients:

7g dried yeast

50g sugar

375ml milk heated to lukewarm

700g flour

1 tsp mixed spice * (recipe all the way down)

1 tsp ground cardamom

250g raisins

60g soft butter in cubes

1 egg

For the cross: 5 heaped tbsp flour

For the glaze: 5 tbsp apricot jam

Method:

1- Use a standmixer with the dough hook attached.

2- In the bowl of your mixer add the flour, spices, raisins and yeast. Let it mix for a minute.

3- Add the sugar to the milk and give it a stir. Then pour it into the bowl and add the egg and butter too. Mix this mixture for about 10 minutes on the lowest speed. The dough will form into a ball and start to come away from the bowl sides.

4- Brush the inside of a large bowl with oil. Take the dough out of the mixer bowl and make sure all the raisins are evenly distributed within the dough. Then form into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).

5- When the dough has risen enough, take it out of the bowl and place it on a lightly floured service. Knead it for another minute and shape into a long sausage. Cut 18 equal bits from the dough and shape into balls. Place them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper leaving about 3 cm between each ball. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.

6- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

7- For the cross, put the flour to a small bowl. Gently add some water, tbsp by tbsp until you have a paste with the consistency of pancake batter. Put the paste in a piping bag with a nozzle that has a diameter of about 5mm.

8- When the buns have risen they should nearly touch each other. Make the crosses by piping across all the buns at the same time. In other words, you will be making several long horizontal lines and then several long vertical lines.

9- Bake for 20 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.

10- During the last 5 minutes of the baking process, heat the apricot jam in a saucepan on a low heat. Once runny, pass the jam through a sieve to get rid of any bits. Brush the het cross buns with the jam when they come out of the oven and still hot.

11- Let the hot cross buns cool inside the tray.

HAPPY EASTER!!

Easter treat: hot cross bun

*Recipe for mixed spice:

1 tbsp ground allspice

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp nutmeg

2 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground ginger

Mix it all together and store in an airtight container.

Semlor – Swedish Lent buns

Traditional Swedish Lent buns called Semlor

Next week we will be celebrating Fasching here in Germany, but you might call it Mardi Grass, or Carnival. The day is traditionally one of indulgence and different countries have different foods that they make to celebrate with. In the UK for example, pancakes will be in the menu. In Berlin, there will be a type of jam-filled donut called Pfannkuchen. And in Sweden people will feast on semlor.

Semlor are sweet yeast buns that smell beautifully of cardamom. They are filled with a simple almond paste and some cream, then finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar. Simple and elegant, these buns look like they could be part of an afternoon tea as well as being a nice addition to a late winter Sunday morning brunch. But first and foremost, they are Sweden’s Fat Tuesday treat. I suggest that you immerse yourself in some Scandinavian baking this week and make these your pre-Lent treat.

Next week I’ll be working on Valentine’s Day recipes. If the sky was the limit, what would you want your loved one to bake for you?

Simply Swedish Semlor

 Semlor – Swedish Lent buns

(makes 8)

Ingredients:

125ml milk

50g butter

1 tsp instant yeast

pinch of salt

20g sugar

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 egg yolk

225g flour

plus: 1 egg, whisked, for glazing

For the filling:

50g ground almonds

50g powdered sugar

2 tbsp water

100 ml whipping cream

plus: icing sugar for dusting

Method:

  1. Heat the milk and the butter in a saucepan on medium heat until the butter is melted. Do not let the mixture boil. Set aside and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and cardamom. Let it mix for a couple of seconds.
  3. Pour the milk mixture in the middle of the bowl and mix for a couple of seconds. Then add the egg yolk. Mix the dough for about 10-15 minutes. The dough will be slightly wet and feel sticky.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Let it rise for about 2 hours or until the dough has double in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  6. Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into 8 equal parts. Shape them into balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Then place a damp tea towel over the dough balls and let them rise for another 30-45 minutes.
  7. Remove the towel and brush the balls with the whisked egg. Then place the baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake for a total of 10-13 minutes, turning the baking tray half a turn after 6 minutes to ensure even browning. The semlor should be a light golden brown.
  8. Take the tray out of the oven and place to one side. Cover the semlor with the damp tea towel while the buns cool.
  9. Now, make the almond paste by mixing the ground almonds, powdered sugar and 2 tbsp of water in a bowl.
  10. Once the semlor are cooled, carefully slice off the top and scoop out the center. Put the crumbs in a bowl and add to that the almond paste and 2 tbsp of the cream. Mix it all together.
  11. Fill the semlor with 1-2 tsp of the almond paste mix.
  12. Whip the rest of the cream until stiff and scoop or pipe it on top of the almond paste mix. Then put the “lid” of the bun on top of the cream.
  13. Dust with some icing sugar to finish them off.

ENJOY!!

Selmor - Swedish Lent buns

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

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I grew up on a breakfast of buttered bread with a layer of jam and fresh pastries on Sundays. That’s how we did things in Belgium back in the 80’s. Cereal was new and expensive and I don’t think a lot of people had heard of muesli. Compared to all the breakfast options we have today, it seems very boring and unhealthy. Now and again though, I like to go back to this kind of breakfast purely for nostalgic reasons.

Something that was always on the table at home was peperkoek (spiced bread). It’s not really a bread in the traditional sense. The concept is similar to banana bread: looks like cake but is called “bread”. The proper peperkoek has rye flour and lots of honey. It is light on the inside and has a dark brown, soft, sticky crust. I found this version of peperkoek when I was looking for a simpler recipe that didn’t have so much sugars in it. Granted, this recipe still calls for 250g of brown sugar but the amount of the honey is limited to 1 and a half tablespoons.

Buttered knife with crumbs

The spices is what makes this bread an absolute dream. If you are a fan of speculaas (biscoff cookies) this will be right up your street. It uses the exact same spices. You can find my recipe for speculaas spice mix here. The only way to eat this peperkoek is with a rather thick layer of real butter. Another way to really enjoy it is by putting a slice in between 2 slices of fresh, crusty white bread.

So this isn’t going to be in the top 10 of “healthy breakfasts for you” but it definitely would be part of the “tastiest breakfast treats” list. I think you should try this peperkoek. If anything, for the fact that it makes your house smell amazing. But, if you’re trying to cut down on sugar as part of a new year’s resolution, just save it for later via my Pinterest board.

What is your favourite breakfast? Do you make an extra effort on the weekend? And does anyone make their own croissants?

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

 

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

Makes 1 big loaf

Ingredients:

100ml of water

250g flour

2 tsp baking powder

250g dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp speculaas spice mix

1 1/2 tbsp runny honey

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

2. Line a rectangular cake tin with baking paper.

3. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk (or use a big bowl and a handmixer), mix all the ingredients except the flour and baking powder.

4. When the mixture is smooth, add the flour and baking powder, a tablespoon at a time. Mix until all the flour is incorporated. Then mix on medium-high speed for about 7-10 minutes. When you stop mixing you should see bubbles trying to form on the surface.

5. Pour the mixture in the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1hr. Use a knife or skewer to check if it is baked completely.

6. Take the peperkoek out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before taking it out of the tin and letting it cool further on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!

 Spiced bread or peperkoek

Traditional Swedish saffron buns

It’s the second week of my Christmas countdown. Did you have a go at last week’s Sinterklaas treat? How did you find it?

This week we’re leaving the Belgian traditions behind us and heading north to Sweden. St. Lucia is the beautiful celebration of light in the winter darkness. Kids dress up as Lucia in a white long dress and wear a wreath with candles on their head. Others choose to dress up as a gingerbread man, a small Santa or a star boy. This is will give a better idea of how it goes.

Saffron gives these St Lucia buns their golden colour

No Lucia celebration is complete without Lussebullar or Saffron buns. Saffron isn’t cheap but for this special occasion really worth the expense. Its colour is bold and bright and I find it smells divine. Last year I made this lovely golden loaf for Lucia but this year I wanted to keep things really traditional. The kids absolutely love them and for P. it’s pure nostalgia. These saffron buns also freeze really well so go ahead and make a big batch. They are perfect when coming in from the snow, perfect to munch on while watching a classic Christmas movie or have them for breakfast on boxing day (26th December). Either way, I think you should submerge yourself in a little, golden Swedish saffron tradition. Have I convinced you?

Swedish saffron buns

 

Traditional Swedish saffron buns (Lussebullar)

makes 15 buns

Ingredients:

7g dry yeast

80g butter

250ml milk

0,5g saffron (yes, it is a lot of threads)

1/2 tsp salt

85g sugar

400g flour

for glazing: 1 egg

for decorating: raisins

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Then add the milk and heat up to about 37 degrees C. Your finger should neither feel hot or cold when you put it in the mixture.

2. Put the yeast in a bowl and pour the sugar over it. Then add the salt on top of the sugar. Add the saffron threads and then the warm butter-milk mixture. Mix it on a low speed if using a stand or handheld mixer. You can also just use a whisk. Mix until the sugar, salt and yeast has dissolved and the saffron is giving off its yellow colour.

3. Add most of the flour, leaving several tbsp to one side. Let the machine knead the mixture (or use your hands) and check after 5 minutes. If the mixture is too wet, add a tbsp of flour. Continue to knead and check. I used nearly all the 400g of flour.

4. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky and comes away from the mixer bowl.

5. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it rise until double in size (approx. an hour).

6. Knead the dough again for several minutes then divide it into 15 equal bits.

7. Roll out the dough bits into sausages about 20cm long and the shape them into an “S” making sure the tops are really curled in, like a snail’s house.

8. Put the buns on a baking tray lined with baking paper and then cover with clingfilm and let double in size.

9. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Whisk the egg and brush the buns with the egg wash. Put a raisin in the middle of each “snail-house” and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!

Christmas time in Sweden-Lussebullar or Saffron buns

Traditional Belgian Sinterklaas treats

Christmas flatly with red

That moment when November turns into December it’s like a switch in my head flips and I am in full Christmas countdown mode. Taylor Swift’s latest album gets pushed to the side and Michael Buble and Bing Crosby take over my playlists. I poke my nose in every bit of fir and spruce I can find and get excited about peeling a mandarin (oh the smell!). Yes, December first marks the start of the Christmas countdown in this house.

This is how it looks:

1st December: Start of Advent

6th December: Sinterklaas

13th December: St. Lucia

24th December: Christmas Eve

We started with lighting the first candle of our Advent wreath and opening the first door of our Advent calendar. This coming weekend we will celebrate Sinterklaas with the kids and next week St. Lucia, thus keeping their Belgian and Swedish Christmas heritage alive. And then we finish off with family dinner and presents on Christmas Eve.

I talked about Sinterklaas in this post and this one too. If you want to have a go at putting together a Sinterklaas treat for your kids (or yourself) here is what you will need:

Traditional Sinterklaas treat

– Speculaas (Biscoff) cookies are a must. Try making your own with my recipe.

– Flemish Christmas buns or Sinterklaaskoeken are perfect for breakfast or afternoon coffee. Make sure to spread them thick with butter. Here’s my version of these sweet yeast buns.

– clementines

– chocolate coins

– Nic Nacs which you can buy or make yourself. Here is a recipe you can try.

Next week I’ll be baking traditional Swedish saffron buns to celebrate St. Lucia. In the mean time, what does your December countdown look like?

Vintage Sinterklaas postcard

(image source: Vintage images, http://vintageimages.org) 

 

Swedish cinnamon buns

Edited 27.11.2015: I’ve edited this recipe to get a better, lighter and softer bun. They will expand more in the oven and give a thicker, fluffier result. 

Small but sweet, these Swedish style cinnamon buns are just rightIs it Friday already? This week has flown by. It’s as if I blinked for a second and BAM, that was it. Do you ever get that feeling? The last 5 days have been a muddle of appointments, errands, deadlines and decisions. I think my brain is ready for the weekend.

My nearly four year old daughter started swimming lessons this week together with 5 other kids from her Kita group. They get picked up at the Kita in the morning and dropped off after the lesson. It’s a big step for us because apart from paying the fee we as parents are not involved at all. There is of course help at hand, but the kids pretty much get ready themselves and go on to have a class. Afterwards, they get dressed by themselves and then the driver brings them back to the Kita. She was excited and I was so proud.

Did I mention I am getting married in 3 weeks? There is ribbon and card all over my dining room table. I still need to decide what our son is going to wear and I need to find a big enough umbrella in case it rains. And then there’s the last RSVP’s I need to chase and well, I’m looking forward to letting my hair down (…or up?) in exactly 21 days.

I won’t bore you with the fact that its the start of a new month and therefore I need to do our company’s taxes etc. so let’s just take a moment. Let’s sit down for 10 minutes. Let’s breathe. Let’s have a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun and contemplate what fun things we will be doing over the weekend. I’m having a girls’ night tomorrow. What are your plans?

Swedish style cinnamon buns are perfect with a good cup of coffee

Swedish cinnamon buns – Edited

makes 15-20 depending on size

Ingredients

200-225g flour

125ml milk

20g butter

10g fresh yeast

30g sugar

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp salt

for the filling:

20g butter, melted

3/4 tsp cinnamon

25g sugar

Method:

1. Melt 20g of butter in a saucepan over low heat and then add the milk. Heat the mixture to lukewarm (about 37 degrees C). Take it off the heat and add the sugar, salt and cardamom.

2. Put the 200g of flour in the bowl of a standmixer. Use the dough hook. Start the machine and slowly add the liquid mixture.

3. Let the machine kneed the dough for about 10-15 minutes. The dough will be sticky to start with. If after 10 minutes it is still very sticky, add a tbsp of flour and let it knead for another 5 minutes. Once the dough is soft and comes away from the bowl, stop the kneading. It will still be a wet but shouldn’t stick to your hands. Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it rise to twice its size (about 45-60 minutes).

4. Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C.

5. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Roll it into a long rectangle.

6. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and sugar.

7. Brush the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top.

8. Roll up the dough as if it was a carpet. You need to roll along the long side so you get a long and narrow roll.

9. Cut the roll into slices 3-4 cm thick. Place them cut side down (so you see the cinnamon swirl) on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

10. Cover with clingfilm and let rise and thicken for about 30 minutes.

11. Bake for 5-8 minutes until golden and then let them cool on a wire rack.

ENJOY!

Have these Swedish cinnamon buns for breakfast or with your afternoon coffee.

Klaaskoeken – Flemish Christmas buns

It’s December which means it’s time for all sorts of festive activities. We started with celebrating the first Sunday of advent with Saffranslängd. Lots of golden goodness in this saffron bread. Then it was time to join our kids in their annual kindergarten lantern procession in honour of St. Martin. Then it was time for a visit from Saint Nicolas or Sinterklaas as we call him in Belgium. His visit happens at night, just like Father Christmas, and he leaves presents, chocolate, clementines and speculoos (something I want to bake with you later). As children, my brothers and I would also eat Klaaskoeken for breakfast on this day. Its a sweet yeast bun that is traditionally eaten with a good layer of butter in top.

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They are not difficult to make but like any yeast dough you need to leave enough time for it to rest and grow. They also freeze really well so you don’t have to eat them all at once… Ours were gone within 48 hours.

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We will be continuing the festivities tonight by celebrating St. Lucia with other Swedish families (as P. is Swedish we honour their traditions for our kids). But for now, have a go at these very Flemish, sweet little bread men.

 

Ingredients

500g flour

42g fresh yeast

50g butter, softened

50g sugar

1 egg

7g salt

pinch of cardamom or cinnamon

100ml lukewarm water

100ml lukewarm milk

an extra egg for glazing the buns

Method

Crumble the yeast into the water and stir to dissolve. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

If you are using a standmixer, attach the dough hook. In the bowl, add the flower, salt, egg, sugar, milk cardamon or cinnamon, butter and the yeast in water mixture. Let the machine knead the dough for 10 minutes.

If you are using your hands, put the flour in a bowl and make a hole in the middle (so it kind of looks like a volcano with a huge crater). Sprinkle the salt on the rim of your flour hole and in the centre of the hole, add the yeast in water mixture. Now add the egg, sugar, milk, cardamom or cinnamon, and butter. Knead for about 20 minutes.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic or a clean, damp tea towel. Let it rise for about 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Knead the dough again but only for a minute. Cover again and let it rise again for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Dust your work surface with some flour. Roll out the dough until about 1 cm thick. Use a large cookie cutter to cut out little men or shape them into balls. Put them on a line baking tray about 5-10 cm apart. Cover and let them rise for another 15 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C.

Lightly beat the egg for glazing and brush the tops of the buns.

Bake golden brown in 15 minutes.

Cool on a rack and eat with a good layer of butter.

The amount of buns you get really depends on the size of your cutter. I got 25 and baked them in 2 batches.

Enjoy!

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Saffranslängd

Happy Advent!

Today is the 1st of December and today two things happen.  The first one its that we are now officially on the countdown to Christmas. In just over 4 weeks from now, we will be celebrating with my family in Belgium. In the 7 years P. and I have been together, this is the first time we will be enjoying the festive season in my hometown of Bruges. I’m beyond excitement.

The second thing happening today is that P.’s parents are flying in for a 5 day visit. P. is from Sweden but during winter time, his mother and father live in sunny Spain. I hope the cold we are experiencing in Berlin right now will not be too bad for them.

So, put advent, Sweden and Spain together and you get saffranslängd. Let me explain. In Sweden, during advent, they celebrate St. Lucia. And during these celebrations, they eat saffron buns called Lussekatter. Saffron isn’t cheap, it’s like gold, you pay quite a bit of money for a tiny bit of the little red strands. But since Swedes use it in so many more things than saffron buns, it’s reasonably priced. Here in Germany, not so much the case. So we are very lucky that my in-laws are bringing some from Spain today (where they also use it in quite a lot of dishes).

Let’s make a Swedish saffron bread called saffranslängd!

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This is a bit of a project as it takes time but it is totally worth it! And most of that time is the dough resting so you can do something else while you wait. Have a coffee, read a magazine or make Lego structures with your kids.

IMG_2242The key ingredients for this recipe are saffron and fresh yeast. If you can’t get fresh yeast in the supermarket, ask a baker (street corner or even the bakery in the supermarket).  Yeast is great to work with, it makes everything come alive and it has such a lovely unique smell.

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Raisins are for filling the bread. Just to add another bit of sweetness.

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Use a bit of sugar to help crush the saffron with a pestle and mortar.

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Once everything is combined, you need to let it rest. Let it do its thing. Your dough needs to grown a lot, to twice its size.

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Now, shape it into a simple loaf or do what I did. I opted for a roll-cut-pull approach. I’ll explain how I did this in the recipe.

Recipe:

(makes 2 loaves)

40g fresh yeast

1 kg flour

500ml milk

150g butter – melted

120g sugar

1g saffron strands

1 egg

200g raisins

optional: pearl sugar for decoration

Method:

1: Combine the milk and the melted butter together and heat to 37 degrees C. It should feel lukewarm when you put your finger in the mixture, not hot or the yeast will die and your dough will not rise.

2: Meanwhile, put the saffron and a teaspoon of sugar in a pestle and mortar and crush the strands.

3: Divide the mixture into two. In one part, crumble in the yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add this to the other part of the milk-butter mixture and add the sugar and saffron. Stir until dissolved.

4: Add the flour and kneed for about 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a stand mixer with a dough hook. The dough should form a clean, smooth ball that doesn’t stick.

NOTE: if you are making a simple loaf, add the raisins now with the flour.

5: Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Put the bowl in a warm place that is free of draft and let it rise to twice its volume (approx. 30-45 minutes).

NOTE: if you are making a single loaf, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

6: Cut into 2 equal parts.

NOTE: if you are making a simple loaf, skip to step 11.

7: Roll out the dough into a rectangle about half a centimetre thick. Then sprinkle over half of the raisins. Roll the dough tight like you would roll a carpet, starting the roll with the long side. Do the same with the second part of dough.

8: Take a sharp knife and cut into the dough every 2,5 cm, starting from the bottom. Cut about 3/4 of the way down, you don’t want to cut all the way through.

9: Take the first “cut” and squeeze the middle of it between your thumb and forefinger. Pull it towards you. Take the next “cut” and pull it to the left. Take the third “cut” and pull it to the right. The fourth “cut” your are again squeezing and pulling towards you, then left and right and repeat until you reach the end. Do the same with your other bread.

10: Put both loaves on a baking sheet and cover with a clean tea towel for about 30 minutes, until they have doubled in volume. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

11: Whisk the egg lightly and brush both loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle on the pearl sugar.

12: Bake in the bottom of the oven for 35 minutes. Keep an eye on your loaves. If they start to brown too quickly, lay some tin foil over them for the rest of the baking time.

Happy Advent!

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