This simplified version of a korovai is made with ‘tangzhong’, a flour roux used in traditional Asian breadmaking. It gives a beautifully soft texture.
Make the tangzhong. Using a balloon whisk, mix 125ml of cold water with the flour in a pan over a medium heat. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, then use a wooden spoon to stir as the mixture thickens. Pour it into a small bowl, cover the surface with cling film and place in the freezer to chill.
Make the dough. Gently warm the milk and butter together in a small pan or the microwave until just hand hot. Whisk in the orange zest and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt.
Remove the tangzhong from the freezer and stir it into the mixture. Add the flour and yeast and mix on speed 2 for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, then add the cranberries and mix for another 1 minute. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and punch it down, then shape it into a ball and place it in the prepared tin. Cover with oiled cling film and leave the shaped dough to prove for 30 minutes, or until it has risen just above the tin. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6.
Using a very sharp knife slash the dough to make a cross in the top and brush with egg wash. Bake the loaf for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4 and bake it for a further 20 minutes.
Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then it turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely (you may need to run a knife around the edge to ease it out).