Sunday, 4 April 2004

Black Hole Teacake

I've had a slightly strange weekend these past couple of days, mainly because of my ears. My left ear has been playing up for a while and last night I thought I'd try to improve things by putting a bit (just a drop mind) of Fairy washing-up liquid into a cup of hot water and then filling a pipette with the soapy mixture and squirting it into my ear.

If you think this sounds like a good idea then let me put you straight right now. It is NOT a good idea. Firstly it hurts your ear drums (I later tested the pipette in the bath and it turns out it'll shoot water vertically for a good couple of metres easily) and secondly the water just stays in your damn ear and you end up deaf. I'm not kidding, I can't hear a bleedin' thing through one of my ears. I'm hoping it'll clear itself of its own accord, otherwise I'm going to have to go to the doctor and admit that I've been squirting hot water into my ears on purpose. For reasons that I don't need to go into here my doctor already thinks that I'm a fool and I don't think that this is going to help change his opinion.

Anyway, onto the meat of the posting - teacake! Yes, another recipe. This one was also sent to me by half woman / half baking machine Pamela. I actually made this one LAST weekend, when I could still hear things, but I've been a bit lazy in writing it up.

I'd better start with the ingredients - this doesn't need much stuff (and most of it will keep for quite a while) but it does need a little planning:

175g raisins
125g sultanas
50g currants
175g soft brown sugar
300ml strained cold black tea
1 egg beaten
225g plain flour
7.5ml (1½ tsp) baking powder
2.5ml (½ tsp) ground mixed spice

A word about black tea. You may be wondering just what the hell kind of variety of tea "Black" might be. You may even be thinking of writing off to Pamela to ask her if it's like Earl Grey or Chinese or Breakfast tea, and whether Sainsbury's would sell it. If you *are* thinking of sending such a letter then let me save you the humiliation that I had to suffer. It is just normal tea without milk in it that you leave to go cold:

I used Breakfast tea.

The first step is pretty easy. This is actually ALL pretty easy, except for a little bit at the end. To start this off you take a bowl, put the dried fruit and sugar in it and then pour the tea on top. Give it a bit of a stir and stick it in the fridge overnight.

I'm not actually sure about the fridge bit. The sugar had kind of clumped together into a cold slurry when I took it out the next night so I left it out for an hour to warm up, just in case it made a difference.

I did have a "before" picture of the bowl just prior to it getting dumped in the fridge overnight but it came out a bit blurry. As you might imagine it looks pretty much the same when it comes out the next day, except the fruit swells up quite a bit. Here's the end result (note the bowl behind it - I realised I wasn't going to fit any of the other ingredients in the bowl I'd chosen so I had to change bowls before I went any further):

Next - and this bit is not appetising - you beat the egg and mix it in:

Then finally you just mix up the mixed spice, baking powder and flour and fold the lot into the mixture:

After a bit of mixing you end up with a foul smelling gloop. I have to admit that by now I was having my doubts over whether this would be edible or not:

Now at this point in the proceedings I had to ignore the rest of Pam's instructions and go it alone. For some reason that I can't quite fathom she thought that I owned things like loaf tins and baking liners and started giving instructions on their use.

The poor deluded fool.

Of course I don't have loaf tins and baking liners. Who the hell does? But luckily I own - A BREAD MACHINE!!!

All bow down in its presence! Is it not a thing of beauty? I love my bread machine - and with good reason, it's piggin' great. The only thing that would make my bread machine any greater would be for it to burst into "Ride of the Valkyries" at full volume when you press the START button. And maybe for it to speak to you like HAL out of 2001.

Anyway, getting back to Mother Earth, one of the many talents that this machine possesses is the ability to bake cakes. I'd never tried it before so I thought I'd give it a go with this teacake.

The first thing you're supposed to do with the traditional loaf tin is line it. I thought that seeing as how the bread machine had a Tefal-coated tub I wouldn't have to bother. But I was wrong! The manual says it has to be lined. Bugger.

Lining a loaf tin is probably a bit easier than lining a bread machine tub. It all turned out to be quite tricky. I eventually managed to get it done with only a little bit of swearing and crying. Once you've managed that bit (and let me tell you, it was the hardest part of all of this by far) then you just pour in the mixture and set it onto the bake program for 75 minutes (that's 180° C for you proles with your 3rd century loaf tins).

If you are baking this in a normal oven then I expect it comes out crap. Serves you right. However if you are a cooking genius like myself and you are using a bread machine then the previous unpleasant smell transforms into a wonderful spicy aroma half-way through and the whole thing starts to look and smell really quite appetising.

An hour and a quarter is a long time to wait. You might want to do what I did and nibble on some Shrewsbury Biscuits you made the day before, just to tide you over until it's done.

When it's finished you should have something like this waiting for you:

I have to admit that when I first took it out I thought I'd made a mistake - the thing was so dense it had its own gravitational field, teaspoons were being drawn to it across the kitchen worktop. However Pam assures me that all teacakes are a bit on the heavy side so don't worry about it.

It was nice. Very sugary and spicy. Reminded me of a sweeter version of those malt loaf things you can buy, except without the malt and with more fruit. I might try sticking a bit of Horlicks into the next one to see if a malty taste will jolly it along in any way.

I wouldn't try toasting it, that didn't come out very well at all, but that aside I can definitely recommend this one.

Just a short footnote - it occurred to me while I was reading this back that lining the tin might have been easier if I had greased it first so that the paper stuck to it, instead of trying to keep the paper against the walls of the tin with one hand while pouring the mixture in with the other (which let me tell you takes a *lot* of patience). It is entirely possible that this greasing technique is quite common, and that only an idiot would think of trying to line a tin without greasing it first. I don't know. Either way, I'd try greasing the tin first if you're going to line it with baking paper.