Friday, December 20, 2013

A Holiday Treat from "The Old Country"

This is a different fruitcake and based on an old Irish recipe. I am not a fancy cook but this one is so easy you can hardly mess it up--even me! So give it a try and enjoy. I am sure it would be most suitable for Midwinter Solstice or a Yule supper or just about anytime. I swear Brighid has Her hand on my back every time I make it and ensures it comes out good!

As among other things, a  goddess of hearth and home, it isn't unfitting that She be there to assist a lady who says with a mixture of defiance and pride that, "Martha Stweart does not live here!"

Tea Brack
 Source: Winfred Abbe, County Offaly (C: 1900)
A simplified version of the traditional yeasted Barm Brack.
The following recipe makes three loaves for 8x4x3 pans.

*1 cup sultanas (blond raisins)
*3 cups raisins
2 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 cups black tea   (or 1 1/2 cups tea and 1 1/2 cups Irish Whiskey)

Soak fruit and sugar in tea overnight. (use large mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel.)
The next day add alternately: (Mix dry ingredients and add alternately with beaten eggs)

4 cups flour
3 beaten eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp assorted spices to taste

Pour into greased bread pans and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 300o.
When cool, brush with honey to give it a fine glaze

Some variations I’ve made use of over the years: 
At times I’ve replaced half of the brown sugar with an equal amount of Sugar Twin artificial sweetener or Stevia to reduce calorie/sugar content. Also, the equivalent of 4 eggs in a product like Egg Beaters can be used in place of the whole eggs to reduce cholesterol. There is no regular fat, which makes this a healthy recipe!  You can also use whole grain flours.
*I generally use no citron (like traditional fruit cake) but do add 1 medium package of dried fruit bits (1 cup or so), about 1 cup of chopped dates, and reduce the regular raisins to 1 cup. Dried cranberries, strawberries, blueberries or cherries can be used, too. You can be as creative here as you like with generally good results. Just dry fruit, not fresh or canned.
You can also use a liqueur like Amaretto or Kalua, or a good rum in place of the whiskey or use 1 tbsp of rum or almond extract/flavoring to impart a similar taste. Best when wrapped and "seasoned" in a refrigerator for 1-2 weeks and will freeze well for later use.

Note! This is not to be confused with the legendary "Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake" referred to by Robbie O’Connell in a hilarious song with the same title! One passage refers to a "crust that was nailed on with glue." The list of ingredients would gag a hungry coyote and the song says it "would kill a man twice after eating a slice.” The song is a real howl. Get it if you can find it. O’Connell is kin to the famous Clancy Brothers, BTW.

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