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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
Put the dried fruit in a bowl with the brandy, rum or orange juice, cover with cling film and microwave on High for 1 min. Set aside to cool while you make the dough.
Pour the milk and honey into a pan and heat until they just come to the boil, then remove from the heat, add the butter and set aside to cool a little, swirling now and then to melt the butter. Meanwhile, mix the flour, yeast, spices and ½ tsp salt in a large bowl.
When the milk has cooled to body temperature, pour into the flour bowl. Add the egg and zest, and mix together with a spoon, then with your hands, until the mixture comes together as a dough. If it’s a little sticky, add a little extra flour.
Tip out onto your lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 mins or until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a clean, lightly greased bowl, cover with greased cling film and leave to prove for 2 hrs or until doubled in size. You can put the dough in the fridge for up to 2 days at this point; just bring back to room temperature before continuing.
When the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto the work surface and knock out the air bubbles. Knead in the soaked fruit.
Roll the dough into a square, roughly 40 x 40cm, then cut into 3 long strips. Break the marzipan into 3 balls, then roll each to the same length as the strips of dough. Put 1 marzipan sausage on top of each strip of dough, then pinch the sides of the dough together to encase the marzipan – so you have 3 long sausages of marzipan-filled dough. Flip the dough over so the seams are underneath, then pinch the 3 ends together. Tightly plait the dough, pinching together to seal when you finish. Place the plait on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, tucking the ends under for a neat finish. Cover loosely with a sheet of oiled cling film, leave to prove for 30 mins-1 hr or until doubled in size.
Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Uncover the plait, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle over the almonds. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 mins until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and dust with icing sugar before serving. Will keep for up to 5 days in a sealed container.