Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Cold Tea Fruit Cake

My Grandma used to make fruit cakes for gifts every Christmas. We always accepted them politely, but later joked amongst ourselves that it was just what we needed: another door stop. I grew up thinking fruit cake was dry and horrible. It wasn’t a great loss, as I didn’t have a great sweet tooth anyhow. Imagine my surprise to find that in Great Britain, fruit cake is to die for and none better have I ever tasted than the cake John shared with us Monday (another bank holiday) on our bike ride.

I’ve done a bit of Internet research and found a couple of recipes I'm going to try. The first comes from a book, The Great Tea Rooms of Britain. It’s advertised as part travel book and part cook book and I have to say I’m tempted. The pictures remind me why I enjoy living here, showing Tudor buildings, quaint villages and olde world tea rooms. A reminder such as this is good on a grey day like this one.

It doesn’t say it’s from Harrogate, in fact the authors are apparently American, or at least run a tea shop somewhere in the US., but many British traditions have travelled well across the country, so I would say it’s a start.

Sweet Bara Brith (Welsh Tea Bread)
2 cups mixed dried fruit
1¼ cup cold tea
1 cup brown sugar
2¼ cups self-rising flour
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ tsps allspice

In a medium bowl, combine the dried fruit, tea and sugar. Let stand un-refrigerated overnight. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line and grease a loaf pan. Add the flour, beaten egg and allspice. Bake 1½ hours or until a cake tester comes out dry from the centre of the loaf. Remove to a rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with butter or clotted cream.

The other recipe is also from an American source, which sells British-styled goods. Unfortunately it is a gluten-free recipe and thus far I seem to tolerate wheat just fine. I would be inclined to consider substituting regular products for the gluten-free ones.

Tea Brack
125 gms butter
250 gms heron gluten free flour
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
60 gms demerara sugar
180 gms sultanas
2 free range eggs
¼ litre cold tea

Soak the sultanas and the sugar in strong tea overnight. Put the butter, flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the eggs and the liquid and mix well. Grease and line a 450 gm loaf tin, scoop the mixture in. Set oven to 200’C/400’F/ Gas Mark 7. When you put your brack in turn the oven down immediately to 175’C/ 350’F/ Gas Mark 4. Bake in the centre of the oven for 50 minutes, then lower the temperature to 150’C/ 300’F/ Gas Mark 2 and bake for a further 30 mins (you may want to cover the brack with a sheet of greaseproof paper at this stage to prevent it getting too brown). Insert a sharp knife into the loaf, if it comes out clean your loaf is baked. Leave to cool before turning out onto a cooling tray.

I'll go put the kettle on now and make some nice tea....

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