One of my Christmas presents was Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads and it is a beauty. Hundreds of breads, both yeasted and not, dozens of new techniques to try, lots and lots of new flavor combinations, too. It was difficult to know where to start.
One recipe that caught my eye was the Tea Brack. Brack comes from the Irish word brac, meaning speckled – you can see that each slice is speckled with dried fruit and candied peel. It makes one loaf and the author plainly states that he loves to drink tea and that this lovely loaf has tea as one of its main ingredients as well as being a great thing to eat while drinking tea. It also has golden raisins and currents and I love both of those dried fruits in baked goods. You do need to start this the day before you bake it so that the fruit has plenty of time to marinate overnight.
I had expected a dense somewhat dry bread but it turned out to be very moist and chewy and fairly light for a bread with such a lot of fruit in it. I love the spiciness and hint of brandy, too. Truthfully, even though I used a good strong Irish Breakfast brew for the tea, you really couldn't taste the tea as such. It does, however, go really well with a cup of hot tea and a good book. Although Sweetie enjoys it so much that there probably won't be any left by day's end, this kind of bread usually lasts quite a while without getting stale because of all the fruit.
one medium loaf
from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads
1 cup white raisins
3/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup chopped candied peel (I used half lemon and half orange peels)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cold tea (orange pekoe is fine, I used Irish Breakfast)
1/4 cup rum or brandy (I used brandy)(optional but nice)
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose, unbleached)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon EACH ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg and salt
1 egg, room temperature, well beaten
Grease and line sides and bottom with buttered waxed paper - 1 medium (8" x 4") loaf pan. Leave the paper ends sticking out about 1/2 inch so the loaf can be pulled from the pan. Set aside. (You can prepare the pan the next day after the fruit is marinated.)
In a bowl combine the raisins, currants, candied peel, brown sugar and cold tea. Add a dollop of brandy or rum to give it a secret goodness, although this is optional. Cover tightly with plastic wrap so that no moisture escapes and let marinate overnight.
The next day...Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. while making the batter.
In a clean bowl mist together, with your clean fingers, or a spoon, the dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the marinated fruit mixture, stir well to combine, and add the egg. The mixture will be on the thin side. Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the loaf slowly in the 325 degree oven until a toothpick comes out dry when pierced into the load, about 1 1/2 hours. If using a convection oven, reduce heat; bake at 300 degrees F.
Remove the bread from the oven. Place on a wire rack about 5 minutes to cool, then remove the bread from the pan, discard the paper, and let cool completely before slicing.
Serve with butter or cream cheese...and tea!