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Tea Loaf For the Culinary Incompetent


(Yes, they're in Imperial measures. Tough. I'm old-fashioned)

8oz Self-Raising Flour

(READ the packet when buying, people, you need SR flour)

4oz Demerara Sugar

8oz Fruit

(Usually 4oz Sultanas and 4oz Raisins, but you can use 8oz of either if you prefer or can't be arsed to buy both. But It's better with both, trust me)

7 ½oz Cold Tea + bit more for mixing (see "soft dropping consistency" below )

1 large egg


Make pot of tea. (Remove teapot lid. Put teabags in teapot. Boil kettle. Pour boiled water into teapot. Stir. Replace teapot lid. Cover teapot. Leave. But if you need to be told how to make tea, you'd better go away and shoot yourself right now and stop bothering the rest of us)

"Which tea?" I hear you pedants cry. English breakfast, I reply. Don't use Earl/Lady Grey, we're not after subtle flavours here. China/Green/Fruit/Herbal teas are right out - don't. Just don't. You have been warned.

3 tea bags in decent sized teapot is about right, and leave it to brew for a goodly while. Remember: The stronger the tea, darker the cake.

(Do not drink the tea. You won't have enough left to make the cake with. Bung a teabag in a cup and boil the kettle again if gasping already).

Let tea get fully cold, and using measuring jug to get correct amount, pour the 7 1/2 fluid ounces into a large mixing bowl.

"How large?" Mine's about a foot. And so is the mixing bowl {insert canned laugh here}

Keep a little tea (1/2 cup or so) aside for mixing later. You'll need it.

Bung fruit in mixing bowl with tea, cover, and leave to soak for 8 hours or so. (Overnight is easiest). The fruit will soak up the tea, and gives the cake it's characteristic colour and flavour.

(Time Passes...)
Fruit soaked properly? Good. Now sift the flour. Yes, you do need to do this bit, don't be so impatient. And use a proper fine sieve, too, not the rice strainer. Add to mixing bowl with tea/fruit. Stir it in. Try not to plaster it all over kitchen in the process.

Add sugar and egg to mixing bowl. Crack the egg into a cup (or small bowl) first  so you can
a) make sure it's not fetid and
b) pick the bits of shell out of it when you managed to mangle it.
Do NOT get egg shell into mixture.

Mix the whole mixture in bowl with wooden spoon until it's a nice soft dropping consistency.

"What's a soft dropping consistency?" You scream.

Test like so: Put wooden spoon into bowl, and gather some of the mixture on spoon. Raise laden spoon 6 inches above bowl. If mixture runs straight off in liquid fashion, you have screwed up and probably have messed the worktop and yourself up, too. Add some more flour, you fool, and try again. (A little at a time!).

More likely it will stick to the spoon like glue, and then that cold tea you saved earlier can be added in small amounts, stirring in until when you raise the spoon, the mixture falls off after a few seconds. Soft, but dropping. Get it now? Good.

Use an 8" loaf tin. Yes, that's the rectangular type one you make bread in. Or would, if you were competent enough, anyway.

Butter inside of tin lightly and then line loaf tin with greaseproof paper. And yes, that includes the ends. Cut it to size, you don't want it sticking out more than 1/2 inch above the tin's rim.

Spoon mixture in to greaseproofed tin and let it settle out. If you don't you'll get a very lumpy cake. Artistic, possibly but bloody awkward to cut. And the top will burn, too. "Evenly" is the key word here.

Turn oven on, and set to 350 ºF. (Gas Mark 4, 175ºC if you insist)

NB: if using a fan oven (ask, or RTFM if desperate), then you'll need to reduce the temp by ~10ºC or so. Be warned. Fan ovens cook quicker. Vigilance is needed.

Wait 10 mins or so for oven to warn up, then put loaf tin with mixture into oven. Try to put it on the middle or lower shelf. Don't squash it at the top.

Bake for approximately 1 hour. (Check it at 50mins and at further 10min intervals if necessary)

"But how do I tell if it's cooked?", you winge.

If the top's charred and flaking black lumps, you've burned it and are a complete numpty. Check your oven temperature and try again.

The -proper- way of telling is to gently stick a clean skewer into the centre of the cake and withdraw carefully. Is there cake mixture stuck to the skewer? It's not done, then, put it back for 10 minutes more, or until the top looks as if it's starting to char.

Do not forget oven glove when handling cake tin. It'll hurt, and you'll probably set fire to the kitchen when dropping the hot tin. Be careful, or get an adult to help you.

OK, it's done. What now?

Take it out the oven, and let it cool. Yes, it smells good now, but let it cool anyway. You'll get horrendous stomach ache if you eat it hot, trust me.

Place tin on wire tray until it's cool enough to handle, then remove cake from tin. The greaseproof paper will be stuck to the cake. Remove it. Try not to tear cake apart while doing this.

"But I've burned the top!" you wail.

If you can be trusted with a sharp knife, cut the burned bit off and see if cake is edible beneath. If it's rock hard, you have fouled up again. Go back to beginning, and pay attention this time. If cake is cake-like consistancy, eat it before anyone sees the mess you've made of it, and remember next time to put it lower in the oven, or turn the heat down slightly.