Ireland is one of our favorite places to visit. It is amazingly green and beautiful, and pictures don’t really do it justice. The first time we visited Ireland together, we rented a cottage in the west just outside of the small town of Corofin. One day we stopped and talked with the caretaker, Paddy, who explained that he was busy applying weed killer to the grass near the edge of the driveway. Yep, without weedkiller, that grass would have taken over the driveway in a few months. At the time, we knew people who just wished they could even get their grass to grow without bald spots, and be mostly green. Ah, the luck of the Irish.
For some reason, the Irish have an undeserved reputation for bland and boring food. When we were there, we found that wasn’t true at all; they make wonderful meals, and we wish that we could make Irish brown bread like the loaves we could pick up at the grocer’s. Alas, it’s something we have to work on. But for today, we’ll try an Irish Tea Brack or bread.
We found this recipe in Yvette Van Boven’s book, Homemade. We’ve changed it up a bit to reflect that we don’t have self-rising flour, nor superfine sugar.
- 1 2/3 cup boiling water
- 2 tea bags of black tea (we used Irish Breakfast and Earl Grey)
- 1 pound raisins
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch nutmeg
- 1 2/3 cup flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbs baking powder
You know our mantra when it comes to eggs, so we’ll talk about raisins. Raisins come from grapes, and grapes (imported) are on the dirty dozen food list (most contaminated with pesticides), so we buy organic.
Make tea. Boil up the water, and use it to brew a strong tea. We did it in a large measuring cup to make it easy. Feel free to boil up a little extra and have a cuppa yourself.
Add raisins. Once the tea is nice and strong, remove the tea bags and add the raisins. Now let them steep for about 8 hours or so. Just cover and pop in the fridge overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Prepare pan. Get out a loaf pan and butter it. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to size, and, what the heck, butter it, too. We used a strip that went all the way up and over the ends of the loaf pan. This makes it easier to remove the loaf later; you can use the parchment paper ends as handles.
Add sugar, egg, and spices. Stir the sugar, egg, and spices into the raisin tea mixture. Full disclosure: we forgot to add the spices, but it was still really good.
Mix flour, salt, baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. You are making self-rising flour, so you really want to whisk thoroughly. It wouldn’t be good if only a portion of your brack were to rise, now, would it?
Fold in the flour. Carefully fold the flour mixture into the raisin mixture. Stir briefly — well, just until the flour is incorporated, and pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan.
Bake. Pop it into the oven and bake for about 90 minutes, or until a skewer, toothpick, or knife inserted into the center comes out dry. Yes, 90 minutes, it’s not a typo; ours actually took almost 2 hours.
Cool. Let it rest right in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack and let it cool a bit further.
Serve. Thinly slice while the brack is still a bit warm so that any butter you slather on top melts right in.
Enjoy. This was the first time we had made brack and, my, was it tasty! We ate several slices for dessert and then had a few slices with cream cheese for breakfast the next morning. Just so you know, you’ll want to slice this on the thin side, maybe 1/4 of an inch thick; after all, with the raisins and sugar this tends to be on the sweet side. This recipe gets a well-deserved and resounding five stars.