Victor Protasio
Active Time
30 MIN
Total Time
3 HR 10 MIN
Yield
Serves : 6 to 8

Tea loaves have roots that branch out across Britain and Ireland, from Irish barmbrack to Welsh bara brith and Yorkshire tea bread. There are purists in all corners and plenty of debate about which version is best, but the basic premise remains the same wherever you go: strong tea is used to make a silky, only lightly sweet cake batter, often with spices, which is then baked into a hearty loaf with dried fruit. In this version, Earl Grey tea, along with the addition of a little orange zest, brings a welcome aromatic edge, which I’m especially fond of at this grey time of year. There’s no fat in this recipe, but please don’t think that this is out of any kind of ascetic virtue. Making a low-fat batter simply means that the crumb will be springier and more robust, and so able to withstand being sliced, toasted, and—wait for it—spread with a perfect, thick layer of butter before serving. Read Ruby Tandoh's essay on its importance in her personal life: The Beauty of Plain.

How to Make It

Step 1    

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Add tea bags to 1 1/4 cups boiling water, and let steep 10 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add prunes; let stand until some tea is absorbed and prunes are softened, about 10 minutes.

Step 2    

Whisk together eggs in a large bowl until thoroughly blended; slowly stir in tea and soaked prunes. Stir in brown sugar and orange zest until just combined.

Step 3    

Add flour, baking powder, and fine sea salt to tea mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold until no streaks of dry flour remain.

Step 4    

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, and bake in preheated oven until a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Step
Step 5    

Cut loaf into thin slices, and lightly toast in a toaster or dry skillet. Spread generously with butter, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Make Ahead

Wrap completely cooled tea bread in plastic wrap, and store at room temperature up to 3 days.

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