Dan Lepard - Christmas Chocolate & Cardamom Twist Recipe

Best served warm
Makes: Enough for 4-6 people
Difficulty: Easy


For the bake:

For the filling:

  • 80g ground almonds
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 10g cocoa
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150g rich milk chocolate, chopped (about 60% cocoa)

To finish, and for the brandy syrup

  • 5g flaked almonds
  • 20g water
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 20g brandy (or vanilla extract, if you prefer)

Useful Equipment & Ingredients:

Recommended Equipment - Spring Oven
Spring Oven - Honey Glazed
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Oak Bread Board
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Opinel Knife
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Dan Lepard portrait
A recipe by Dan Lepard.

So it’s Christmas and you’re working out what to make beyond the usual homemade mince pies, a big ol’ fruit cake, perhaps a yule log, fantastic bread. I hear you, and if you’re like me, it gets even trickier every year to find the right gifts for budding bakers.

One idea we’ve had with Patrick at BakeryBits is that you put together a bespoke baker’s kit based around the beautiful award-winning Spring Oven terracotta pot designed in Britain and produced in Portugal. It’s small, just big enough for a 500g loaf, with a built-in gully around the glazed base so water and steam can create the best baking environment for an outstanding crust.So if you order one of these Spring Ovens, BakeryBits can ship it to you in time for Christmas (see below for last ordering dates), why not add in a few other great treats from their shop (see some ideas below).

There’s nothing quite like true stone-milled flour to give you a gutsier texture and flavour compared to the roller-milled white stuff. At Redbournbury Watermill, where they’ve been milling grain for the last 1000 years (ok, they had to rebuild a few times, but you get the idea), their Unbleached White Flour has a slightly coarse texture and a delicate beige colour that combine to boost the flavour and guts of your crumb. I first used Redbournbury’s flour in 2003 when we were setting up London restaurant & bakery St John Bread & Wine, and was always impressed with the flavour and personality their flour gave my baking. To get the best from it, you can either cut the flour 50:50 with a great roller-milled flour such as Matthews Canadian Strong White or go full-on and use it straight for a denser bold crumb.

Here in this month’s recipe I’ve combined the beautiful Spring Oven with Redbournbury’s flour to make a Christmas Twist loaf, with the cardamom-spiced dough rolled thinly and layered with ground almonds, butter, chocolate and brown sugar. Serve it warm with a little brandy syrup and soft whipped cream spooned over.


  1. Measure the flour into a bowl. Pour the water into a larger bowl, sprinkle on the yeast and stir until dissolved. Then add about 30g flour from the measured amount, stir well, and leave 30 minutes to begin to ferment.
    Stir the mixture
    Stir the mixture
  2. Stir in the yolks, sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts. Next, stir in the spices and salt, followed by the honey. Then stir in the butter, don’t worry if a few tiny lumps remain.

    Stir the mixture
  3. Stir in the remaining flour, and work with your hands until you have a firm smooth dough. Cover and leave to rise for 90 minutes. I upturn an empty bowl over the dough to cover it.

  4. Meanwhile, mix the filling ingredients by stirring together the ground almonds, brown sugar, cocoa, unsalted butter and about 20g of the beaten egg, until smooth. Save the remaining egg and chopped chocolate until later.
  5. Roll the dough out thinly, using flour to stop it sticking, to about 40cm by 20cm. Spoon pieces of the filling over the dough. Spread the filling evenly over the dough with a table knife, sprinkle the reserved chocolate evenly over it, then roll the dough tightly into a log.

  6. Have a disc of non-stick paper ready, about 18cm across. Cut the dough down the centre lengthways so it is in two pieces. Then plait the pieces together like a rope, keeping the cut sides upwards. Then twist the ends of the rope round, into a ball. Then place the ball onto the disc of paper, place the paper on a plate and cover with a mixing bowl. Leave for about an hour until rise by half (not doubled in size). It’s best to keep this under-risen, as this will produce a chewier texture: if it over-rises, it can have a crumbly dry texture.

  7. Heat the oven to 200°C fan. You can preheat the Spring Oven first as recommended (this will give better height), but I used it cold. Brush the top of the loaf with more of the beaten egg, sprinkle with flaked almonds, then slip the paper and dough onto the base of the Spring Oven. Pour boiling water into the Spring Oven rim, then place the lid on and bake for 30 minutes. Then open the oven door, remove the Spring Oven lid, close the oven and bake for just 5-10 minutes more, until the top is gently golden. Then remove from the oven and leave to sit for a few minutes on the Spring Oven base. Either serve while still warm, or allow to cool completely then reheat it when required for 30 minutes at 180°C in the Spring Oven with the lid on. To serve, make the brandy syrup by heating the sugar and water until dissolved, stir in the brandy, then spoon this over the warm cake. For me, a spoonful of lightly whipped double cream is the perfect accompaniment. Merry Christmas!