Christmas is a time of indulgence, when we throw cautions and diets to the wind and eat all our favourite things. One of mine is luscious, gooey baked cheese and you can’t do better than buy local and get your hands on one of Fen Farm Dairy’s Baron Bigods. This Brie-style cheese melts beautifully in the oven.

Because it’s Christmas I’ve made a wreath of tangzhong buns. This is a Taiwanese/Japanese milk bread which uses a tangzhong, a sort of roux, to bring extra tenderness to the dough. It’s not a million miles away from brioche, but it’s lighter, less sweet and buttery. The original recipe comes from my friend Steph Clubb, who teaches some of my classes at Mrs Portly’s Kitchen.

Some recipes advise you to bake the cheese with the bread. I prefer not to, as there’s a danger the cheese will overcook. Also, if you pre-make the bread then warm it gently in the oven as you cook the cheese, it’s one less task to do at the time you want to eat.

This recipe makes quite a few small rolls. If you have more than three or four guests you may wish to bake a second Baron alongside the first – or stagger them so as one is finished, the second is coming out of the oven and is at its molten peak.

I like to serve it with pickled cucumbers alongside, or a salad of chicory and orange, all of which help cut the richness of the cheese.

About Linda

Linda Duffin is a food writer who operates a cookery school, Mrs Portly’s Kitchen Classes, from her beautiful Tudor home in mid-Suffolk. Students are invited, in season, to plunder the kitchen garden and orchard in her two-and-a-half-acre garden for ingredients and can also book a stay as part of a course. Linda works closely with local producers, some of whom join her in teaching classes in their specialist areas. The Mrs Portly name, Linda says, started as a joke but she has grown into it.

Baron Bigod bread wreath recipe


1 (or 2) small, whole, boxed Baron Bigod cheeses

Sprigs of thyme


25g strong white bread flour

100g milk


400g strong white bread flour

1 tsp salt

7g fast action yeast

1 egg

135g full fat milk, scalded and cooled

50g softened butter

To glaze:

1 egg, beaten with a splash of water

Dark and light seeds – I used black onion seeds combined with poppy seeds, and pumpkin seeds mixed with white sesame seeds

To garnish:

Fresh cranberries

Sprigs of rosemary

First, make the tangzhong: place the flour in a small saucepan, gradually mix in the milk.and over a medium heat cook the paste, whisking constantly until it has thickened. Remove from the heat, remove to a bowl, cover loosely with cling film and set aside to cool.

Scald the milk for the dough by bringing to just under the boil so you can see small bubbles. This breaks down the whey, which otherwise can inhibit the rising abilities of the yeast. Cool.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix the yeast and egg into the milk until dissolved then add into the flour along with the tangzhong and butter. Mix on a low speed until it comes together into a dough. Increase to a medium speed for 8-10 minutes. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.

Cover the lid of the Baron Bigod with foil and brush the edges with a little oil. Place in the centre of a large baking tray lined with parchment. Beat the egg with the water and place the 2 different coloured seeds into small bowls.

Divide the risen dough into 24 x 30g pieces then shape each piece into a ball.

Brush a ball with egg wash then dip into the darker seeds. Place seed side up onto the baking tray next to the foiled lid. Repeat with another dough ball, placing it next to the last one, and continue until you have 12 balls ringing the box.

Repeat with the lighter side, placing the dough balls in an outer circle (see photo).

Place in a plastic bag and leave to prove until doubled in size, brush gently with the remaining egg wash and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/180C fan for 20-22 minutes.

Remove the top rind from the cheese, leaving a slight upstand around the edges. Poke a few thyme sprigs into the top. To cook it, remove the paper wrapping and place it back into the box, uncovered. It’s a good idea to wrap a strip of doubled foil around the box to stop it breaking in the heat of the oven.

Place on a lined baking tray and cook for 15-20 minutes at 180C/160C fan or until molten. Pop the bread in for the last 10 minutes to warm through. Carefully remove from the oven, put the tangzhong wreath on a large plate or board and place the cheese in the middle. Garnish with cranberries and rosemary.