Spiced honey tea loaf

Spiced honey tea loafAfter a few weeks of making lots of little things, I fancied baking something nice and large last weekend. After flicking through some recipe books, I settled on this rather lovely spiced honey tea loaf from Luis Troyano’s Bake It Great.

It’s incredibly easy to make – if you remember to soak the dried fruit in the tea and honey the night before! I ended up soaking it for around 6 hours during the day, and this seemed to be just about long enough, as I could taste the tea in the fruit when I had a warm slice just after removing the tea loaf from the oven.

Spiced honey tea loaf
The recipe calls for the fruit to be soaked in Lady Grey, but as my teabags were looking a bit old, I used loose leaf Earl Grey instead. For the fruit itself, I used raisins, chopped prunes and dried cranberries. Once most of the tea and honey has been soaked up, all you have to do is add some flour, an egg and mixed spice before tipping the lot into a loaf tin and baking. Once it’s out of the oven, glaze the top with some more honey.

Note that there’s no butter in this recipe, making it more like a loaf of bread than a loaf cake!

Spiced honey tea loaf
I was a bit concerned that my tea loaf didn’t seem to rise very much, but it was definitely cooked in the middle, so I was happy. I had my first slice with butter and it was LOVELY. Luis also suggests trying some with cheddar and chutney (like you might with a fruitcake), but it was good enough with butter for me!

Spiced honey tea loaf
Unfortunately, the recipe doesn’t seem to be online anywhere for me to link to, but it’s well worth buying Bake It Great anyway – there are so many fantastic recipes, and this one is actually in a chapter dedicated to honey! There’s also another section on Spanish baking with some intriguing-looking bakes. If that sounds like your cup of tea, consider making the investment.

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Masala chai baklava: my first GBBO bake!

Masala chai baklava
I am, of course, a huge fan of the Great British Bake Off. This year’s series featured perhaps my favourite contestant of all – Chetna Makan. I really admired her inventive approach to baking, often combining the classics with some amazing Indian flavours, and I pretty much drooled whenever the camera panned to her creations on screen – including this divine masala chai baklava.

This is actually my first attempt at a recipe from the show. There have been many GBBO recipes over the years that I’ve bookmarked for a later date, but I’ve never quite got round to trying them! Then my boyfriend and I started planning an informal Indian-themed dinner party for some friends a couple of weeks ago, and we thought of this baklava for dessert…

I’ve never made baklava before, but it was pretty simple in the end – and OF COURSE I didn’t make my own filo pastry, you crazy people. If even Mary Berry thinks the idea of making your own filo is a silly one, then I’m never even going to think about attempting it (those poor contestants, though!).

Masala chai baklava
The filling is just cashews, almond and cardamom ground in a food processor. The filling is then wrapped in butter-soaked sheets of filo, rolled up and twisted round to make a spiral shape The whole lot is then baked and soaked with the masala chai syrup, left to stand for a bit and soaked with some more syrup for good measure. As you can see from my pictures, that’s a LOT of syrup! I ended up with a fair bit of the nut filling left over, so I simply decorated the baklavas with it.

I did toy with the idea of deviating from the recipe and using my mum’s tea masala mix in the syrup (see my one attempt to incorporate it into my baking here!), but I’m glad I didn’t, because the flavours of the baklava were absolutely amazing. It’s so easy to go wrong with cardamom, but the recipe has just the right amount and goes so well with the nuts, ginger, tea and bucketloads of sugar.

The baklava went down a storm with our guests, and it was nice to be able to have some leftovers for breakfast the next day (what?). I would very definitely make these again, and soon! Well done, Chetna – you may not have won the series, but you’ve definitely won at baklava!

Masala chai baklava
The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Food website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/masala_chai_baklava_33678

First bake: Lady Grey biscuits

Lady Grey biscuits

Twinings makes an excellent tea called Lady Grey that is a slightly fruity twist on good ol’ Earl Grey. It’s been a favourite of mine for several years, and a few days ago I decided to come up with a biscuit recipe based on the fresh, light flavours of the tea.

This recipe is loosely based on the rum and raisin biscuits I baked a couple of weeks ago, and also uses the excellent tea infusion method I incorporated into my tea masala cake recipe last month. I aimed to create a delicately flavoured biscuit that accentuates the lemon and orange flavours of Lady Grey.

I had to tweak the biscuit base a little, as it came out a little drier than when I made the rum and raisin biscuits – I suspect this is because the process of infusing the loose tea in the butter resulted in some of the butter clinging to the tea leaves that I discarded. I added a tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of milk to sort out this issue. As you can see in the picture below, the mix was still quite crumbly, but it was moist enough to press together into biscuits. I got 24 biscuits out of the mix altogether, which is about right.

Lady Grey biscuit mix

Lady Grey biscuit mix

I made sure to press the biscuits completely flat this time, which definitely paid off. The end result was biscuit-y with a ‘snap’ quality to the texture, rather than the more cookie-like ones I ended up with last time.

So, what did they taste like? While the zesty flavours of the orange and lemon definitely came through, I think I could have done with adding a lot more tea to the butter during the infusion process. I can barely taste the tea itself in the biscuit, which is a big shame! I used 2 teabags’ worth of Lady Grey (mainly because the icing for the tea masala cake had 2 teabags’ worth of Yorkshire Tea in it, which came out pleasingly strong), but I think I probably should have used 4 or 5, as Lady Grey is much more delicate than the robust flavours of Yorkshire Tea.

They’re still very nice biscuits, though – hopefully they will have more of a tea flavour the next time I bake them!

Lady Grey biscuits

The recipe

Based on The Caked Crusader’s rum and raisin biscuit recipe and Cupcake Project’s tea infusion method.

Makes approx. 25 biscuits

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 140g caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 280g plain flour
  • 30g loose Lady Grey tea (or approx. 4-5 teabags’ worth)
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • zest of ¼ orange
  • milk, if needed
  • a little juice from the lemon/orange, if needed
  1. Heat the unsalted butter in a saucepan until just melted and add the tea. Heat gently for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  1. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve (a tea strainer is ideal), pressing hard on the tea leaves, and remove any tea leaves from the strained mixture. Leave to cool to room temperature.
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  1. Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and light. Beat in the vanilla and the egg yolk.
  1. Stir the flour and the zest into the mixture. Add a tablespoon of lemon or orange juice and/or 2 tbsp of milk if the mix looks too dry to bring together.
  1. Take tablespoons of the dough and place them 3cm apart on the baking sheets. You should get approximately 25.
  1. Press down on the biscuits so they are as flat as possible. If they are too domed they will be cakey in texture rather than biscuity.
  1. Bake for 15 minutes. They should be golden and crumbly around the edges, but still soft in the centre.
  1. Leave to cool completely on the baking sheets before storing in an airtight container. You will find that they have crisped up and are no longer soft in the centre. Serve with a cup of Lady Grey tea.

First bake: tea masala cake

Tea masala cake

I’ve wanted to come up with a cake recipe inspired by the Indian tea spice mix my mum makes for AGES. I finally got round to doing some research to create the recipe on Friday, and decided to take the plunge and bake it today.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, most Indians add a mixture of warm spices to their tea to create ‘chai’. My mum makes her own tea masala, which consists of ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, black and white pepper, cloves and cinnamon. I love having my tea this way – for me, it’s not quite right (but still nice) without the tea masala. So it was pretty natural for me to hit on the idea of a cake containing all of these wonderful flavours.

Tea masala cake mix

Tea masala cake mix in the tin

Researching the recipe was difficult at first. I knew it would have all of the above spices in it, plus sultanas and a buttercream icing topped with pistachios. Existing recipes for chai cake didn’t seem to be quite what I was after, and I couldn’t get my head round working out the right quantities of flour, eggs, butter and sugar to create the recipe from scratch, so I asked around for some advice.

It was suggested to me that adapting an existing fruit cake recipe could work, so I used Delia’s Dundee cake recipe as a starting point and a great post on Cupcake Project on how to get tea flavours into baked goods for the icing (the most successful part of the recipe, in my opinion). I also took inspiration from BBC Good Food’s porter cake recipe for infusing the fruit with tea, lemon and ginger flavours, which worked to a limited extent.

Making the cake was pretty straightforward after I’d settled on the recipe. I did tweak some things as I went along, but for the most part I stuck to my method. Delia’s recipe calls for milk if the mix ends up too dry, but I didn’t have to add any as it seemed to be the perfect consistency. The icing was easier to make than I thought it would be; Cupcake Project suggests simmering loose tea in butter, and as I was using the butter in the icing rather than the cake, I was worried I’d end up with icing flecked with bits of tea. Happily, this didn’t happen, as I used an extremely fine tea strainer to get rid of the leaves.

Tea-infused butter

Tea-infused butter

I left the butter to cool for quite a while (I may have popped out to buy shoes and lipstick…!), so it had solidified again by the time I got round to actually making the icing, but a few seconds in the microwave and a bit of beating returned it to a butter-like consistency. I was initially going to add 140g of icing sugar (following the method for the buttercream in BBC Good Food’s Victoria sponge recipe), but settled on 115g to avoid it becoming too sweet. I loved the colour change in the icing; as you can see in the above pic, the butter went a strange green/brown colour because of the tea in it, but the icing turned a pleasing pistachio green shade after I added the sugar – and I’d already decided beforehand to top the cake with pistachios!

Tea masala cake, pre-icing

Tea masala cake, pre-icing

The result of my hard work? A wonderfully moist fruit cake with a hint of tea masala, topped with a creamy icing with very strong tea flavours. It’s a very nice cake, but not quite what I had in mind – luckily, I already knew I’d have to perfect this cake over several bakes! I will make a few changes next time – I’ll use the tea-infused butter in the cake as well as the icing, and ramp up the spicing so the tea masala is more prominent. I might also use a little less fruit and lemon, and add some chopped stem ginger. Nevertheless, I’m very pleased with this effort, and it goes wonderfully with a cup of Indian tea!

Tea masala cake

The recipe

The below recipe is what I actually did to make the cake, with tweaks, as opposed to the original recipe I came up with.

Serves 10-12

  • 150g butter, at room temperature
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 60g light muscovado sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  • milk, if necessary
  • 350g sultanas
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp ground cloves
  • 0.5 tsp ground cardamom
  • 0.5 tsp ground black pepper
  • 0.5 tsp ground white pepper
  • 0.5 tsp grated nutmeg
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 300ml hot, strong black tea

For the icing:

  • 120g butter, softened
  • 115g icing sugar, sifted
  • 3.5 tsp (approx. 2 teabags’ worth – I used Yorkshire Tea) strong loose tea
  • 1-2 drops vanilla extract
  • 25g pistachios, shelled and chopped
  1. Preheat oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Put the sultanas, black tea, lemon juice and zest, and fresh ginger into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, then strain – reserving the drained liquid – and leave to cool.
  3. Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Whisk the eggs separately then, a little at a time, beat them into the creamed butter and sugar.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground cardamom, nutmeg, white pepper and black pepper together into the bowl.
  6. Using a large tablespoon, carefully fold the flour mixture into the wet mix. Your mixture needs to be of a good, soft, dropping consistency so, if it seems too dry, add a dessertspoon of milk.
  7. Carefully fold in the sultanas and spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smoothing it out evenly with the back of the spoon.
  8. Place the cake in the centre of the oven and bake for 2-2½ hours (two hours was spot-on in my gas oven) or until the centre is firm and springy to the touch. Let it cool before taking it out of the tin.
  9. In the meantime, make the icing:
    – Melt the unsalted butter until just melted and adding the tea. Heat gently for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
    – Strain the mixture through a fine sieve (a tea strainer is ideal), pressing hard on the tea leaves, and remove any tea leaves from the strained mixture. Leave to cool to room temperature.
    – Beat the butter until smooth, add the vanilla extract and add the icing sugar gradually, beating all the while.
  10. Prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer and drizzle the reserved tea mixture from cooking the sultanas over the top.
  11. Spread the icing on the top of the cake and scatter with the pistachios.