Saturday 4 August 2007

Sugar in Your Tea?

This is my entry to this months Sugar High Friday which is hosted by Johanna from The Passionate Cook. This month’s theme was to cook a local/famous dish or food that originated in the region where we live. I am living in the county of Yorkshire and so I set about thinking of all the foods Yorkshire can put claim to, which as it turns out is quite a few. In the end I decided to bake a Yorkshire Tea Loaf and to make it, of course, using Yorkshire tea. You can’t get much more regional than that.

Despite knowing about Yorkshire tea loafs, I wasn’t really aware of the history behind it and so a little research was called for.

Yorkshire Tea is a black tea blend produced by tailors of Harrogate, one of the few remaining family tea and coffee merchants in the UK. The company was founded in 1886 by Yorkshire tea merchant Charles Taylor. It has a reputation for producing high quality teas.

The Yorkshire Tea Loaf was produced by Taylors as a way of using their Yorkshire tea to expand their range. It involves using the choicest fruits which are infused overnight with the tea. After the addition of flour, eggs, sugar and spices it produces a moist tea loaf which is delicious eaten on its own, sliced and buttered or in true Yorkshire style, with a thick slice of the crumbly Yorkshire cheese, the one much favoured by Wallace and Gromit…Wensleydale.

This tea loaf is quite unusual in that it contains no additional fat in the form of butter or oil, the only fat in the recipe comes from the eggs. The added sugar is also fairly low, although the dried fruit does of course add its own sugar and sweetness. Overall I consider this tea loaf to be relatively healthy. The lack of butter doesn’t mean that you end up with a dense and chewy loaf, quite the contrary. Thanks to the large amount of tea used, it is incredibly moist, so much so, that it actually makes a slight ‘squish’ sound when you bite into it. Despite the fairly large quantity of fruit, making the cake feel heavy when handled, it remains surprisingly light and even in texture.

You need to plan this tea loaf a little time in advance as it requires steeping the fruit in the tea overnight. Once this stage is done the rest of the loaf is very quick and easy to put together. I tasted a little of the leftover tea that hadn’t been absorbed by the fruit the following morning and it had really taken on the sweetness and flavour of the fruit. If I hadn’t been wanting to use it in the cake I could quite happily and have drank it there and then.

The combination of the soft brown sugar, mixed spice, fruits and almost aromatic tea gave me the strong impression of a Christmas cake with all the smells mingling together deliciously. Once cooked it takes on a different appearance with a lovely sticky/glossy golden brown surface, making it look almost as if its been glazed. The curst has a slight chew to it, which yields to a moist spiced interior that is speckled with plump juicy fruit and rosy cherries. The tea gives a most unique, yet not obviously tea, flavour. Overall I love it, it’s the perfect thing to munch on in the afternoon, the crust of a currant bun and the interior similar to a fruit cake but without being too rich or dense and of course it goes brilliantly with a cup of tea.

Other foods regional to Yorkshire include Yorkshire Pudding, Yorkshire Curd Cheese Tart, Bakewell Tart, Wensleydale and Yorkshire Blue cheeses, Liquorice/Pontefract Cakes, Fat Rascals (scone like biscuits) and of all things, Savoury Ducks (the Northern version of faggot).

Yorkshire Tea Loaf
200g raisins
100g currants
50g glace cherries
¾ pint freshly made Yorkshire tea
75g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp mixed spice
270g self raising flour

Weigh out the currants and raisins and place into a large bowl. Pour over the hot tea, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to steep for 12 hours or overnight.
The next day, the fruit will be very plump and juicy looking. Some tea will still remain in the bowl which is fine.
Grease a 2lb loaf tin and pre-heat the oven to 150C.
Chop the cherries into halves or thirds, depending on size, and add to the soaked raisins along with the sugar and spice. Stir until mostly dissolved.
Add the eggs and mix well until they are evenly combined.
Scatter the flour over the surface of the mixture. Using a wooden spoon, start at the centre of the bowl and beat the flour into the mixture, working your way out towards the edge until everything is well incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour and 30 – 40 minutes until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out relatively clean (it may still be sticky if you hit a raisin)
Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire wrack to cool completely.
Serve in thick slices. I like it just as it is but it can be served with butter or with a slab of Wensleydale cheese for that authentic Yorkshire experience.
Makes 1 2lb loaf.

You have until Monday, 27th of August to cook and blog about a local specialty, so get investigating!


thepassionatecook said...

Hi Katie,
what a wonderful entry! I have never, ever tried this in my life, but it looks delectable. I am a raisin addict, so this would suit me just fine... thanks for your contribution and all the wonderful background info!

Anonymous said...

Hi! This is my first time commenting here. Thanks for such an amazing recipe. Since we don't get Yorkshire tea in India, do you think a different type of tea like Darjeeling would work?


Katie said...

Hi Jane,
I am sure another type of tea would work just as well. If you used one with a citrus or spicy overtone I think that would work wonderfully with the flavours in the loaf. The best way to find out is to try it.
Good luck :) said...

Lovely! I have been searching for a good recipie for tea cake as they are quite expensive to buy :) mine is in the oven as I type!

Katie said...

Hi Row,

As you say, much cheaper to make yourself. Let me know how it turns out.

Unknown said...

perfect cake, v moist, wonderful with a cup of tea and FAT FREE!!! I thought the bought yorshire tea cake was lovely and this is twice as nice, well done v good recipe

Katie said...

Hi Jakeyboy,
Glad you enjoyed the recipe. Thansks for the feedback, it's always nice to know a recipe has turned out well for someone else.

Anonymous said...

This cake is probably my best ever fruit loaf cake and I make a couple every week of one sort or another. I put green,gold and red cherries in and they looked lovely. Just sent 4 pieces to friends for their coffee breaks tomorrow. THANKYOU for making me seem such a good cook.

Katie said...

Hi Helen,

Lovely to know you've had success with it. It does produce a great moist fruity bread. Bet it looks so pretty with the cherries. Thanks for stopping by :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Katie,

As a Yorkshire lass me'sen I've been making your wonderful tea loaf for about four years after someone posted your link on the BBC food message-boards (now sadly disbanded!)

I hope to make them to sell on a cake stall at a local charity fete & hope you can offer advice on temps & timings for making them in 1LB tins instead of 2LB.

What's so good about this recipe-is that it lasts so well, & doesn't need to be slathered in butter to enjoy, although I occasionally do!

Hope you can help.


Katie said...

Hi Joy,

Sorry for the delay in reply, I've only just seen your comment.
Wow im flattered you like it so much, it is delicious. I really must convert it to be gluten free now I'm diagnoised coeliac.

I'd try a baking time of 50 minutes and then poke it with a skewer. I can't say for sure though, as haven't tried it myself and all ovens are different.
Best of luck and happy baking