On a grey and gloomy (not to mention unseasonably cold) Sunday I decided to make this the day of music and baking. Re-visiting Henry Mancini, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald on my iTunes/Spotify lists I plumped for Nat King Cole, an old favourite who always reminds me of my dad, a man with a gentle yet sonororus voice who instilled in me a love of Nat’s music at an age when most little girls were dancing to Madonna’s Material Girl. Bring on Nat King Cole – (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 the perfect music for Sunday baking…
Since I had some odds and ends, including raisins, sultanas, cherries and dates and a miserly amount of maple syrup lurking in my kitchen cupboard, it seemed obvious to make tea bread with the fruit and throw the maple syrup in, damn (part) Yankee that I am. Perhaps it was the music, or perhaps because dad was on his way to the States but I was clearly feeling the Yankee love.
Then I rummaged through my rather sad-looking liquor collection and found a few dribs of Famous Grouse to add to this maple fruit medley. Whisky and maple syrup, two of god’s great creations, seemed a shame not to marry them. The Leiths Baking Bible was instructing me to soak the fruit in tea. Logical enough I suppose. Off I went to find tea, which turned into a 15-minute exercise in tidying up our sizeable tea collection. Oi vey…exasperated by this impromptu tea-clean, I thought why not use this nice-looking Lahloo Amber Oolong? It’s complex, slightly smokey but not so heavy on the tannins, thus making it a good prospect for soaking the now whisky-maple-fruit mixture in* now I had to find flour and eggs and I was on my way, hurrah! I schlepped my MacBook and speakers into the kitchen and let spotify do its thing while I assembled all the constituent ingredients.
Except being the donuthead that I am I chose a recipe that requires the fruit to be soaked for A VERY LONG TIME. Longer than I had, even on a Sunday afternoon.
So what was meant to be a relaxing Sunday of baking turned into a Sunday of preparing to bake and I finished off assembling the tea bread this morning. Tastes marvelous, even if I do say so myself
Whisky, maple syrup and oolong tea bread:
Start soaking the fruit 4-5 hours, or overnight before baking:
100g chopped dates
50 dried cherries (sour if you can find them)
250ml oolong tea
30ml (2 tbsp) whisky
30ml (2 tbsp) maple syrup
150g light brown sugar (you can drop this to 125-100g if you don’t like your tea bread too sweet)
1 whisked egg
30g melted butter (not strictly kosher with the low-fat brigade but who cares)
190g refined spelt flour
60g wholemeal spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 grated whole nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
Stir til evenly combined.
Preheat oven to 180 Celsius. Line a large 12.5cm x 20 cm loaf tin or two smaller loaf tins with parchment paper and fill with the tea bread mixture:
Bake 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours depending on how temperamental your oven is. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer, if it comes out clean your tea bread is ready:
Eat with a small pat of butter or on its own. This will keep for a few days at least, but I’d be surprised if it lasts that long…
* if you’re interested in oolong, have a look at this feature on tea I penned a while back.