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If possible, make the babka dough the night before. Put the strong white bread flour, caster sugar, 1 tsp salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, keeping the salt and yeast away from each other. Split the vanilla pod down the centre and scrape out the seeds. Add the milk and scraped vanilla seeds and pod to a small saucepan and on a low heat, warm the milk until it is just about to steam.
Mix the butter and mascarpone in to the pan and leave to cool slightly until the mixture is lukewarm. Add the beaten egg to the lukewarm milk mixture and whisk to combine. It will look slightly strange, but don’t worry. With the dough hook attached, start the stand mixer on low. Fish the vanilla pod out of the milk mixture and discard (see tip, below), stream the milk into the dry ingredients in the stand mixer. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and knead for 12-15 mins or until the dough is smooth, taut and elastic.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to prove in a warm spot for an hour, until it begins to grow. Put it in the fridge overnight for a cold ferment to help build flavour and make the dough easier to handle.
For the cranberry compote, put the cranberries, sugar, orange juice and zest, and spices into a medium saucepan. On a medium heat, cook for 15-20 mins, or until the cranberries have broken down and it is very thick and glossy. Add more sugar if the cranberries are very tart. Set aside in the fridge to cool completely.
The next day, oil and line a 10 x 20cm loaf tin with a large strip of baking paper, leaving a large overhang over the long sides of the tin. Working quickly, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out to 30 x 45cm, using a light sprinkle of flour if it begins to stick.
Spread the cranberry compote up to the edges of the dough with a palette knife. Roll it up tightly from one of the shorter sides and pinch the seam together. Cut the dough in half down the middle so you now have two slimmer rolls.
Twist them round each other, tucking each end under, then put into the lined baking tin. Cover loosely and leave to prove in a warm spot for 1½ -2 hrs, or until it is very puffy and risen.
Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Bake the babka for 40 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
While the babka cools, make the mascarpone glaze. Whisk together the mascarpone, sifted icing sugar, seeds of a vanilla pod and whole milk to make a glossy icing. Spread generously over the babka and sprinkle with the dried cranberries. Will last for 3-4 days in an airtight container.