Aoife Noonan’s How to be a Better Baker Part 5: Fruity tea loaf

Packed with fruit and lightly spiked with warm spices, this is a perfect winter treat

Delicious: fruity tea loaf. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Delicious: fruity tea loaf. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

 

Aoife Noonan will host a 30-minute live cooking class on how to be a better baker on Sunday, November 29th, at 3pm on the Irish Times Food Facebook page. She will be baking this recipe.

Any sort of fruit cake reminds me of my grandparents. Tea and teatime were such a grand affair in their house when I was growing up. I remember the adults mulling over what non-caffeinated beverages to give the children, and because I was a little bit older, I felt quite smug to be included in the lavish tea-drinking ritual. Little jugs of cold milk were filled, and the tea pots warmed. My granny’s porcelain teacups were taken out from the cupboard, as well as the good plates for the treats.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth

Cakes and biscuits were strewn across the table, but I remember there always being a fruit loaf, sliced and served with soft salted butter from the patterned ceramic butter dish.

I love this fruit cake recipe. It’s a lovely slice-able loaf, not too dense but fluffy and packed with fruit and lightly spiked with warm spices. The fruit is soaked in hot tea, which allows it to swell and plump up, as well as injecting it with flavour. I like adding a little whiskey to the fruit while it is soaking, which adds an additional depth of flavour, but feel free to leave it out if you prefer.

Dark brown sugar adds a richness and soft caramel note to the loaf, which marries perfectly with the warm spices, and the addition of lemon zest works beautifully.

You can experiment with different teas, but I usually favour black breakfast or Earl Grey in this recipe as they have a deep, rich flavour. Varying the fruit will give different results, but as long as you stick to the basic total quantity for the dried fruit, you can use whatever you have in your cupboard. I usually use raisins, sultanas and currants, but candied orange, dried cranberries, cherries, or apricots are also a lovely addition, and you can mix and match to shake things up a bit. Sometimes I also add a tablespoon or two of chopped crystallised ginger to add a warmer note.

The loaf freezes wonderfully, and if you prefer, cut it into slices before freezing so you have individual treats ready to toast and smother in butter.  

FRUITY TEA LOAF

Serves eight

Ingredients 
350g mixed dried fruit (100g raisins, 100g sultanas, 100g currants, 50g dried cranberries) 
250ml freshly brewed tea (1 tea bag) 
50ml whiskey or brandy (optional) 
125g dark brown sugar 
1 egg 
240g plain flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
Pinch salt 
2 tsp mixed spice 
¼ tsp ground cinnamon 
¼ tsp ground ginger 
Zest of 1 lemon

Method

1 Put the fruit, tea (and tea bag) and whiskey or brandy (if using) into a bowl and leave to soak for at least one hour, or overnight if preferred.

2 Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grease a 1.5lb loaf tin and line with parchment paper.

3 Whisk the egg with the sugar in a stand mixer, electric beater or by hand until light and fluffy, about five minutes.

4 Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl. Grate in the lemon zest.

5 Remove the teabag from the fruit, and add the fruit, including the liquid, to the egg mix. Stir well to incorporate and add the dry ingredients. Mix well to combine and pour into the loaf tin.

6 Bake the loaf for 50-55 minutes in the preheated oven until a skewer or knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

7 Leave the loaf to cool for 10 minutes or so before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely.

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