Mandarin & Poppy Seed Loaf

I like to make this bread in the evening to wind down and de-stress. Kneading the dough for 10 minutes may sound like a long time but it’s very therapeutic to do at the end of the day, and those 10 minutes will go faster than you think! This recipe uses half the mandarin segments from a standard 300g (or thereabouts) sized tin. You can keep the remaining half of the fruit in an airtight container in the fridge to use another day.

Makes 1 small loaf
1⁄2 x 300g tin mandarin segments in juice and the juice from the whole tin 300g plain flour, plus extra to knead the dough a 7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast 1 tablespoon poppy seeds oil to grease the bowl and loaf tin optional: extra flour to top the loaf
Drain the mandarin segments and reserve the juice in a measuring cup. Chop the segments into 1cm pieces. (I put them in a mixing bowl and attack with kitchen scissors, rather than messing about slipping all over a work surface.) Add the flour, yeast and poppy seeds to the bowl and combine.
Add lukewarm water to the reserved mandarin juice to make up 160ml of liquid. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the mandarin water gradually, working the mixture in with a wooden spoon. Continue until you have a slightly sticky dough. Lightly flour your work surface, and tip the dough on to it. knead and stretch the dough for about 10 minutes.
Lightly oil the inside of the bowl, put the dough back into it, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size. This takes about half an hour, but the time varies depending on the temperature of the room, etc.
When the dough has risen, knock the air out by tipping it back on to a lightly floured work surface and gently shaping into a rugby ball shape. Lightly oil a 1lb loaf tin (approximately 17 x 7 x 6cm), then lovingly place your rugby ball of goodness into it, pop the tea towel back on top and leave for another half an hour. This process is called proving.
A little before the end of the proving time, put on the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7 to preheat. Score the top of the loaf, sprinkle over some optional extra flour on the top for a rustic look and pop the tin into the preheated oven for 30 minutes. When it’s done the loaf should sound hollow on the bottom when tapped.
Remove the tin from the oven, tip out the loaf and allow to cool on a wire rack. Then slice and eat!

Tips: This loaf will keep for 3 days in an airtight container or for a month if frozen. I wrap mine in cling film once it has cooled and it’s still absolutely fresh and delicious the day after. Shape the dough into 12 small balls instead of one loaf and pop the balls into lightly oiled muffin tins to make scones. Adjust the cooking time accordingly, depending on the size of the muffin tins – around 12 to 15 minutes should be fine.

‘Mandarin and Poppy Seed Loaf’ from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe. Available to buy now.

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