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
50g glace cherries
¾ pint freshly made Yorkshire tea
75g soft brown sugar
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!