Friday, 25 July 2008

Ladies rule (Earls go home)

It's a fickle thing, baking. I was in my local supermarket Waitrose the other day and they have a series of recipe cards - one of which caught my eye: 'Lady Grey Tea Loaf', now a tea loaf may not sound terribly exciting, but the Lady Grey was what intrigued me. It's a tea I've always preferred to its more famous twin (husband?) Earl Grey, perhaps because the Lady Grey's bergamot notes are more subtle, or maybe its aromatic citrus scent is what's so enticing. Whatever, I liked the sound of this zingy-sounding tea loaf, so went ahead and baked it. The fruit is hydrated in Lady Grey tea which gives a lovely fragrant quality to this loaf, but the end result wasn't quite what I'd hoped for: neither cake nor bread-like, more like chewy dough, albeit with delicious tea-scented plums, pears, figs and cranberries...
So I consulted my trusty Leiths Baking Bible to find out where I went wrong. Apparently I didn't - tea loaves are traditionally low in fat (as you'll
 see, the recipe has no butter - sacre bleu!) and their moistness makes them ideal for keeping, ie. they're meant to be chewy. Perfect for our frugal times I suppose, but not entirely satisfying. The verdict? The Lady Grey tea imparts a fabulous flavour, but next time I shall add some butter, and perhaps 50g ground almonds for that extra texture - all the liquid in this recipe wreaks havoc with the gluten in flour, hence the chewiness not a revelation I realise, but there we go...experimentation is the name of the game! Oh, and I guess it wasn't too much of a disaster, as there's none left...

Waitrose's Lady Grey Tea Loaf:
  • 2 Lady Grey tea bags
  • 300ml boiling water
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 300g fruit mix - I used a mix of dried pears, figs, cranberries and luscious red plums (the plums are a winner)
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Steep the Lady Grey tea bags in the 300ml boiling water. After 5 mins, remove the bags, add the sugar and allow to dissolve before adding your dried fruit (I chopped mine in 1cm pieces, but if you're using dried cranberries or raisins just leave them whole!). Cover this and allow the fruit to absorb the tea for 5-12 hours. Then preheat your oven to 180ºC, add the eggs to the fruit mix, then your zest, juice and finally sift the flour in. Bake for 45 mins to an hour.

Future amendments (watch this space)

I would add some vanilla and cinnamon, also some ground almonds and lovely artery-clogging butter - it's about flavour and texture, not about the devastation of one's waistline. Why bake if it's going to be low fat! Gosh, I really have become very militant, must be all the time spent in France recently...

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