Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Sweet Tea Bread

It took me a long time to come around to being a coffee drinker because I started out as a tea drinker. When I was a child I remember I was given a very milky, weak tea when I was sick. Later, one of the highlights of my day was the time spent after school sitting at the dining room table enjoying a cup of tea and some conversation with my Mom. She would stop her busy schedule most days in the afternoon for 'tea time' and it was a great opportunity to discuss anything from problems at school to events of the world. She and I were both very interested in politics, so often the conversation turned to that topic. I'm grateful that she isn't alive in 2017 because I believe that the upcoming inauguration would be a trial for her. She was a supporter of equality for minorities and both genders most of her life and she was not a hater, although she wasn't a fan of the last President Bush, either.

In college I started to have coffee some of the time, although tea was still my favorite hot drink. Once I started working it was far easier to drink coffee when I was on the go, so tea became a drink for the afternoon only.

Lately I have discovered that coffee and my body don't get along, so tea is my hot beverage for the whole day. I have all kinds...black, green, red, caffeinated, decaf, fruit infusions and so on. My favorites are English or Irish Breakfast, Earl Gray, and Peppermint, plus a ginger/honey combo from China that is both sweet and hot.

Recently I baked a lovely quick bread that has tea as one of its ingredients. You soak some dried fruit overnight in the tea which really gets the whole loaf infused with the tea flavor. For that I used English Breakfast since it is hearty and the flavor doesn't get lost in the other flavors of the bread.

You can mix up the dried fruits you use, but be sure to include some candied citrus peel for the special tang that gives. I baked this recipe as four small loaves instead of one big one and just reduced the baking time (45 minutes instead of 1 1/2 hours). Either way, this is a lovely bread to have with a cup of tea!

Tea Brack
one medium loaf or 4 small loaves
from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

1 cup white raisins (I used golden raisins)
3/4 cup dried currants (didn't have enough, so added 1/2 cup dried cherries and 2 tablespoons candied ginger)
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 (I used English Breakfast)
1/4 cup rum or brandy (I used Irish Whiskey)(optional but nice)
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 all-purpose, unbleached and 1/2 Irish whole meal flour from King Arthur Flour)
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, rum or whiskey 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 mix 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!

I suspect that you could marinate everything and keep it in the refrigerator (for at least a few weeks) until you wanted to make the Tea Brack. That would mean that it would all be done in less than two hours. That's still not as fast as Irish Soda Bread for unexpected guests, but pretty fast for expected guests and family!


  1. Oooh, tell us more about these Chinese honey-ginger combos! I have quit drinking coffee entirely for a year now - never was a huge coffee drinker, but now I simply cannot, without major gastric consequences, so I'm indulging my tea habit again with great joy.

    Soaking things in tea I've often done anyway - but for cookies, I use Lady Earl Grey and lavender or dribble in a bit of ginger tea and add dried peaches... but this tea brack sounds like something I haven't tried.

  2. I'll send you an email with the information about the Chinese honey-ginger combo. It has been very helpful in soothing my stomach, plus I like the way it tastes.