Monday, March 25, 2013

tea brack (tea soaked fruit loaf)


You must be thinking, I've got an Irish fetish, this being the second Irish recipe I'm posting in barely two weeks. What I have is an indescriminate (in the best possible way) food fetish and as I see it, every community has culinary gems that await discovery by the hungry and the curious. You could though, blame part of it on the lingering after effects of St Patrick's Day and the fact that I stumbled on a fabulous deal too good to pass up, while killing time trawling a supermarket, waiting for a friend to show up for lunch.




What did I spy between "coffee" and "jams" but boxes of my favourite everyday brew, Yorkshire tea (thanks Biren for for the introduction) going for twice the usual amount at the regular price. After lunch, I scuttled back to the tea aisle and bought as many boxes as I would be able to squeeze into a rush hour train, packed tighter than a can of sardines. As I hugged my booty, nestled a little too snugly between my front and the back of a woman, a head taller than I, my one, sustaining thought was, "TEA BRACK! Once slice covered in butter, another dunked into my steaming cup of liquid ambrosia! Drive faster, dammit!"





I first learned to make tea brack from a cook book my mother bought me when I was 14. It was the first and last recipe I tried out from that book. Of all the recipes in the collection, it was one of the very easiest and I was irresistably drawn by the fact that I had to pour scalding hot tea over the fruit and let it sit overnight. What further piqued my interest was the exclusion of butter. A cake without butter. To fourteen year old me, brought up on a steady diet of stupendously buttery chocolate, sugee and pound cakes, the very idea was radical.



My very first attempt, I was so charmed by the Irish Tea Brack, I never got round to making anything else from between the covers of that now tattered and yellowing book. I fell hopelessly in love and have since made tea brack times out of number; each time, it comes out a little different from the last. What can I say? I'm really not a stick to the recipe kinda girl. Does that sound strange, coming from a recipe developer and cook book writer? Blame it on the long and twisting track of rebellious and easily bored cooks that forms my culinary bloodline.



The dried fruit selection changes according to what I have in my cupboard (raisins, dried currants and candied peel are traditional), sometimes I add eggs, other times, an  egg substitute made with ground flax seeds and water. There's no telling if it's cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice I'll sprinkle on the flour. I've made it with white, light and dark brown sugar to no ill effect. Would it shock you to know that I've even subbed bread flour for plain, when I ran out, and that sometimes, I don't even soak the fruit overnight?? *gasp* Two things though, remain sacrosanct; the tea has to be good, strong and hot, and no skippin' on the whisky, though Irish or Scotch works just as well, for me.



If you've never had a slice of tea brack with your afternoon cuppa or tried stirring up a loaf yourself, you are in for a treat! It's a one bowl recipe and all you need is a big, sturdy spoon. In fact, I'm thinking now, as I write this, why break my back over a fussy, musty traditional fruit cake at Chistmas, when an easygoing, boozy tea brack packed to the gills with succulent fruit is what I'd actually rather eat?! A marzipan draped and icing cloaked tea brack. Maybe I do have an Irish fetish, after all....



tea brack (tea soaked fruit loaf)

prep overnight        cook 1 hr 10 mins        makes a 12 slice loaf

3 bags good, black tea (Yorkshire Red Label or any good Assam based blend)
300 ml (1 1/2 cups) freshly boiled very hot water


150 g (1cup) pitted prunes, diced                            
100 g (1cup) chopped candied citrus peel          
100 g (1/2 cup) glace cherries, diced
4 tbsp whisky
90 g -120 g (3/4 - 1 cup) molasses sugar or any soft, dark sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
200 g (2 cups) plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice or your favourite cake spice blend
1/2 tsp salt



Preheat oven at 150 C (300 F). Line a 23 cm (9 in) by 10 cm (4 in) by 7.5 cm (3 in) loaf tin.

Make tea with the tea bags and hot water, steeping for 5 minutes, to get a strong brew. Gently squeeze tea bags into teacup, before discarding.

Put diced fruit and whisky into a large mixing bowl and pour over the hot tea. Stir and cover. Keep overnight or at least 8 hours. If in a rush, soak for 1 hour or until mixture is cold.

Stir sugar into fruit mix until more or less dissolved. Stir in eggs and vanilla until thoroughly blended. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spice and salt and sieve in 2 or 3 lots over egg and fruit mixture. Fold in lightly but thoroughly with a large, thin, flat spoon until no flour is visible. Don't overmix or loaf will be heavy textured.

Transfer batter into tin and level top. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until a small pointed knife comes out clean from the centre. Remove from tin and cool on wire rack. Slice when slightly warm or cold and serve with strong milky tea. Slices may be eaten plain, or spead with butter. I like it with butter and a little golden syrup.

8 comments:

  1. Hello Denise
    I really got to tell my mum about this cake, She loves mixed fruit cake like this and she usually would soak the mixed fruits with orange juice or in brandy and I guess she never had heard about soaking it in tea. Thank you for sharing this cake and I already fell in love with it.

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    1. Hi Mel :) I think your mum will love not only how delicious this tastes and smells, but also how easy it is to make. As a wonderful bonus, it's even fat free but still soooooo moist!! You're very welcome! I hope she tries this. If she does, please do let me know how it turns out....

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  2. Dark,rich and utterly moist....the way a good fruit cake should be.
    Gorgeous photos, Denise.

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    1. Oh yes! We are definitely on the same page where fruit cakes are concerned!! What I really love about tea bracks is they have all the wonderful fruity dampness of traditional fruit cake, without the fat!!! And it even tastes wonderful without the layer of butter on each slice, though I'm not one to pass up on a nice broad slick of it :9

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  3. You're right Denise...this is a great & easier alternative to a fussy X'mas cake. Draped in marzipan icing it would certainly surprise everyone. Not that I'll ever make it. Nothing to do with you dear Denise. I love fruitca e but its just that the 2 times I tried to make fruit cakes in the past(my aunty's and then mum-in-law's recipes) were disasters. They came out dry or even tough so I've given up. I'll spare my friends and family a trip to the dentist and refrain from making another one lol. My mother-in-law thinks maybe its because of my gas oven as opposed to an electric one. Oh well. Anyway I adored reading this post and the pictures as usual :) Thanks Denise!

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  4. Hi Denise! I'm not a big fan of fruit cake because of the dried fruits used... Prefer to use fresh ingredients.. but yours looks different from what I dislike... which means I might like!!! It doesn't look too compact and hard... plus the whisky... anything with booze is a plus for me! :D

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  5. this recipe is remind me about 9years ago,first time I left my comfort nest to start my new family.. on Singapore transit airport I bought a recipe book and one of the recipe was tea brack. I tought the author just misspell the title (tea break instead) LOL .*silly me*
    Your cake looks so soft and moist, I need to try too. Anything with fruits is my hubby fav. *gosh, try to make him fat but always fail :p*

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  6. Great webpage brother I am gona inform this to all my friends and contacts.
    vegetable recipes

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