19 December 2006

And she bakes too

In addition to the holiday knitting, this year I was inspired to bake.

I am a wicked good baker but I don't eat sweets. This makes me a calorie pusher/enabler which works out rather well for my food motivated friends and colleagues.

The not eating sugar thing can be a problem with new recipes or ones where I need to improvise but I can usually find a taster/tester and I've been baking long enough that I can usually tell whether something works or not.

A favourite no-brainer and crowd pleasing recipe is Welsh bread and the weekend weather was perfect for baking. The fruit was already soaking and I would have started on Saturday but for the lack of marmalade, mini-loaf pans and the motivation to go out in the rain to procure them.

There were two events scheduled for Sunday afternoon. That means that whatever good intentions I may have had, I attended neither. Lately that's been the norm, if I'm supposed to be or want to be at two places at the same time, I'm at neither or a third wholly unrelated place instead.

On this Sunday the wholly unrelated place was in search of baking and other supplies. By sundown everything was assembled.

Not one to do things by half, and since all three packages of flour were marked best by Dec 2006, I pulled out the big stainless steel bowls and set about the serious business of baking. By 7pm, I had 15 mini-loaves loaded into the oven and a dishwasher full of mixing bowls and measuring spoons.

This recipe doesn't require yeast, milk or brown sugar. The recipe is so vague and forgiving that I think of it as the theory rather than the recipe.

The basic theory is:

  • 1 lb of dried fruit
  • 1/2 c brewed black tea
  • 6 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 lb of self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp of orange marmalade
  • 1 well beaten egg
  • 1 tsp mixed (or pudding) spice

Combine the sugar, fruit and tea in a large bowl. Cover and allow to soak at least over night.

Add spice and marmalade to a well beaten egg. Fold the egg, marmalade & spice mixture into the fruit/tea/sugar mix. Slowly add flour.

Grease/line loaf pans and fill with dough. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, place on rack to cool.

[Optional] brush each loaf with a small amount of unsalted butter during the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking.

[Optional] After cooling for about 15 minutes, drizzle honey over the loaves.

Making it your own -- or my notes.

Traditionally, the dried fruit would be currants and raisins and some use peel. I like to start with currents and raisins and then add cranberries, apricots, cherries, blueberries, apples and the like.

I usually use more tea.

I have never used a full 6 tbsp of sugar. My measure is more like half that.

I have been known to "up" the marmalade input significantly and I usually add a 2nd egg.

The mixed spice would always include nutmeg it might also include caraway seed, coriander, ginger, cloves, mace & cinnamon. Some people use a commercially prepared Mixed Spice blend.

I use a "to smell" blend of freshly ground nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger and orange peel
I know that I'm working toward a rather dense batter/dough that looks more like a yeast bread than a cake batter, so I adjust my dry and wet goods to achieve the consistency required.

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