As a fan of Katie’s chocolates at Matcha Chocolat, and especially her masala chai caramels, I knew I should enter this month’s We Should Cocoa, the monthly chocolate challenge co-ordinated by Choclette. This month’s challenge was tea with chocolate, a great combination. Unfortunately, I was on holiday for most of this month (I was in Mexico – so not *that* unfortunate), so I needed something I could do at short notice to get in before the deadline.
I would have loved to spend some time on different tea infusions for this, but with limited time, and the need to do this after work, I needed something more straightforward. This tea loaf is a recipe I had bookmarked some time back when going through Paul A Young’s stunning book ‘Adventures with Chocolate‘. It sounded like a potentially overwhelming set of flavours, but also one that really appealed. The recipe calls for a huge amount of crystallised ginger, no fat and lots of ground cardamom. The tea is there to moisten the loaf, and also provide a malted, caramel background to these other flavours.
[Update: Choclette also made this recipe as part of the challenge – read about hers here.]
The recipe is unusual for a cake, as it includes just the tea-soaked fruit, sugar, eggs and flour – no butter or oil is used. However, this is the traditional tea loaf recipe. Tea loaves are an old traditional recipe, and can be called Tea Brack in Ireland, and similar to the Welsh Bara Brith. Irish Tea Brack recipes date from the 1800s, and would seem to be somewhat similar to soda bread, with the leavening from baking powder.
I made very few changes to the original recipe, even though the amount of ginger – 250g – seemed potentially overwhelming. Given the strong flavours, I wanted to try the recipe on its own terms before making changes. I baked this in two small loaf tins rather than one large one, so I could freeze one. I also swapped wholemeal self-raising for white self-raising, as that’s what I had in the cupboard, and I thought it would fit well with the rustic idea of a tea loaf. As this calls for Assam tea, which is a major component of English Breakfast blends, you could probably substitute with your everyday teabag. I used loose leaf Assam to make sure I got the strong and malted flavours Paul described.
I used two different brands of crystallised ginger, because I already had a packet open, and needed to get more to make up the large amount. Both come in large chunks, and I decided to slice the chunks into fairly thin pieces, so that the final cake wouldn’t be overwhelming with chewy lumps of ginger. The softer of the two was Humdinger Traditional Stem Ginger, that came with large sugar crystals on. The Waitrose Cooks Ingredients ginger comes in a cute plastic jar, and is firmer and drier, and cut into more even cubes. That made it easier to slice into pieces, so might be worth bearing in mind if you need to chop ginger finely for another recipe.
The smell of the ginger and raisins soaking was incredibly aromatic, with both the orange and cardamom coming through clearly. Even when baking, you could smell this amazing perfume, along with the chocolate. I was right about the flavours – it’s a really intensely flavoured cake, which sets your mouth buzzing with the ginger. Having said that, I think it works really well – the chocolate comes through, the orange holds its own with the ginger, and the cardamom is just about there in the background. My teaspoons of cardamom were a bit scant, so I probably could have used the full measure. It reminds me a lot of Divine’s orange and ginger dark chocolate – that also has quite a bit of crystallised ginger embedded in the chocolate. So I’d definitely recommend making this, but it’s not for the faint-hearted!
Chocolate, ginger and cardamom tea loaf
barely adapted from Paul A Young’s ‘Adventures with Chocolate‘.
- 250g crystallised stem ginger
- 100g raisins
- 75g light brown muscovado sugar
- 2 tsp ground cardamom (about 1 tbsp green cardamom pods)
- zest of 1 orange
- 200ml strong assam tea
- 1 large egg
- 200ml wholemeal self-raising flour
- 100g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks (I used Divine 70%)
Slice the ginger chunks into slices, and combine with the raisins and sugar in a heatproof bowl.
Warm the cardamom pods until fragrant in a dry pan, then cool. Pop the black and brown seeds out of the shells and grind into a powder in a pestle and mortar. (This step is optional – you can buy ready-ground cardamom, or grind the pods without toasting them, but this method will get you the most aromatic powder).
Brew 200ml strong assam tea (1tbsp of loose tea leaves, 200ml boiling water) for 4-5 minutes, and strain over the raisins and ginger. Cover and leave overnight or for about 8 hours. (I prepared the ingredients one evening, poured the tea over the following morning, then made the cake the second evening).
After soaking, the tea should almost all be absorbed, with some syrup where the sugar has dissolved. Don’t remove any liquid, but add 1 beaten egg directly to the fruit and mix in. Mix in the flour, then fold in the chocolate to combine. The texture is very similar to a traditional fruit cake at this stage, fairly stiff but still moist.
Put the mixture into two lined 1lb loaf tins (or one large loaf tin).
Bake for an hour at 160C. Check with a skewer that it is cooked through. Cool for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove and cool completely. Wrap in fresh paper and store in a tin for a day before cutting and eating, on its own or buttered slices.