Our friends Jean and Ian arrive from the UK this evening, so I am baking a couple of bits and pieces to leave in their apartment, lest they have the inevitable midnight munchies after their long journey from Somerset.
Soda bread is always a firm favourite – delicious on the day it is baked, even better toasted the next morning, so that is definitely on the menu. For something a little sweeter, I am making a very sticky fruit tea-bread, which has a texture a bit like malt loaf. We can’t get malt extract here, so I make a similar cake using pekmez, which is a dark, sticky grape molasses, rather like a runny black treacle, but nowhere near as strongly flavoured – it really is very useful for all sorts of goodies. We also get a different type of pekmez made from carob pods – beware of this horrid substance, I cannot stress how absolutely vile it is – don’t ever mistake one for the other if you are in a Turkish supermarket. The carob one smells like public swimming pool changing rooms – ugh.
This cake keeps really well and is actually better if you can wrap it up and leave it alone for a couple of days (allegedly). It is even more decadent spread with butter. I haven’t tried toasting it, but I think that could be good too – in fact, purely in the interests of science, I’d better try it. (Jeannie, if your cake is missing a slice, it’s in our toaster..)
Sticky fruit tea-bread
Cuts into about 12 slices
You will need a loaf tin, approx 21cm x 12 cm, lined with baking paper
300g dried fruit (I used a mix of sultanas and raisins, but whatever you have – chopped apricots, dates or cranberries would be good additions)
150ml hot tea (a normal tea bag is fine, but use Earl Grey if you want a bergamot tang)
180g molasses (or you could replace with malt extract if you are in the UK)
80g brown sugar – any kind, I used Demerara
2 eggs, whisked
250g self-raising flour
1 flat teaspoon baking soda
(BTW, I haven’t missed out the butter/oil – this recipe doesn’t need any)
Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
Put the fruit into a large mixing bowl and pour over the hot tea – leave to sit for 10 minutes or so. Stir in the brown sugar and molasses, then the eggs.
Make sure everything is well combined before sieving in the flour and baking soda. Mix well – it is a bit sticky, so a rubber spatula makes things easier than getting a wooden spoon gummed up from top to bottom (not that I have ever done that, obviously, nor got cake mix in my hair or dropped it down my cleavage). You will see that the soda starts to react with the liquid and the heat as soon as you add it, so don’t dither about here, get it into the oven as quickly as you can.
Pour the mix into the lined tin and bake for about 1.5 hours. Cover with foil after about 45 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean and the centre should feel firm to the touch.
While the cake is hot, brush with more pekmez to give the cake a sticky glaze.
Cool completely before slicing and serving with butter. (I’ll report in on the toasting test, but feel free to try it out and do let us know how you get on).