Friday, 23 September 2011

Fruity Tea Bread.

Dearest little sis, I have a nice 'welcome home' post all cooked and photeed and ready to rock, but unfortunately Mr Love and Cake ran off with the camera this morning, so I'm missing the photos. I shall save it for another day when we'll both just have to go along with it and pretend you actually just did step off the plane. So for now I wont acknowledge your homecoming and I'll tell you about this lovely bread instead. Hope that's OK, I'm sure it will be, because it really is a gem. 

It is the edible equivalent to a big hairy blanket tucked around your knees as you sit next to a glow-ey fire, listening to rain on the window and reading Enid Blyton. That sort of scene does exist somewhere is real life doesn't it? Well the bread really does exist and after a flash under the grill a slice is toasty on the outside, chewy on the inside and, if you're like me, drippy with salty, melty butter.

It's also a great bread for beginner bakers to try out, because although kneading such quantities of dried fruit into a springy dough is a bit of a bugger, the loaf doesn't rely on a light, springy texture; the result of experience, intricacies and sometimes luck, to make it magical.

In fact, it's not light and fluffy at all, it's dense and sweet and just the right side of gooey. Perfect for a toasty tea after some energy-burning autumnal activity. A spot of bramble picking perhaps. The sort of thing that leaves you with rosy cheeks, a cold nose and needing something to warm you up from the inside. With Love and Cake.

Fruity Tea Bread
adapted from Dad's very old Sunday Times Book of Real Bread

A few notes:
  • Like I said, kneading the fruit into the dough is a pain, but just do it a bit at a time and you'll get there. You'll probably loose a currant here or there but it can't be helped, it's the quantity of fruit which makes this bread so brill.
  • The quantity of fruit also means that when sliced, the bread is quick delicate and prone to breaking up a bit, so I prefer to toast under the grill rather than in a toaster.
  • This recipe could either make one large 2lb loaf or two littler 1lb loaves. I prefer to make two so I can freeze one for another day. If you go for the bigger one, just up the cooking time by 10 minutes or so.
You will need

1 2lb loaf tin or 2 1lbs tins, greased and floured

1 1/2 tbsp honey
150 ml warm water
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
30g butter, at room temperature
500g strong wholemeal bread flour
150ml strongly brewed tea or warm milk
375g of dried fruit- I like a mixture of currants, sultanas and mixed peel

  • First things first, dissolve 1/2 a tbsp of the honey in the warm water, stir in the yeast and set aside for 10 minutes so it can get nice and frothy.
  • Meanwhile in a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips.
  • Dissolve the final tbsp on honey into the tea or milk and add it to the flour along with the yeast mixture.
  • Work together to form a dough and then knead for 5 minutes until it becomes springy and smooth.
  • Now pop back in the bowl and leave somewhere cosy and warm for about an hour, until just about doubled in size.
  • Then knead the dough again and work in the dried fruit, a bit at a time. 
  • Pop the fruity dough into the tin/s and leave to rise again for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until nice and tall and proud looking.
  • Preheat the oven to 190° and bake the bread for 30 minutes.
  • When nice and golden on top, turn the loaves out of the tin, and pop back in the oven, upside down, straight onto the shelf for another 5 minutes to crisp up the bottom. Some fruit likes to jump off at this point so it might be best to stick a baking sheet on the shelf below so you don't end up with current-ey cinders burning in the bottom of your oven.
  • Slice, toast, spread, enjoy.

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