Malt loaf was always a lunch box favourite for my daughters and they loved its sticky, slightly chewy texture and malty flavour. I loved it because it was cheap, filling, always got eaten and there was invariably a slice left for me!
It follows a great tradition of British fruit cakes in that the dried fruit is first soaked in tea for moisture and flavour, as in a Welsh Bara Brith or Irish Barm Brack but there the similarity ends; this is much more dense and sticky and is given a distinctive flavour by the addition of malt extract..
I don’t really know how to describe the flavour of malt extract – it is very sweet and has a kind of treacly bitterness but with a background hint of almost Marmitey savouriness. I’m not really selling it am I?
It is considered a health food and, if you know your Winnie the Pooh you may remember that Kanga fed it to Roo each day as “strengthening medicine”. It is often added to cod liver oil to make it more palatable and it is also used in beer making so it can’t be all bad!
You might find it in your local supermarket (I didn’t) but if not you should be able to get it in any health food shop.
Malt extract is a bit tricky to handle in the same way that treacle is – if you try to spoon it, it sticks to the spoon creating long threads which develop a mind of their own. It becomes much more obedient if you warm it slightly before using it. Stand the jar in a bowl of hot (not boiling) water for a minute or two and you should be able to spoon the extract out or even pour it straight from the jar into the mixing bowl. Oiling the spoon may help a little too.
This malt loaf is absolutely delicious served cold with a scraping of butter. It really doesn’t need the butter but then again – what has need got to do with it? Enjoy.
300g / 11 oz Mixed Dried Fruits
175g / 6 oz Malt Extract
85g / 3 ½ oz Dark Muscovado Sugar
150ml / 5 fl oz Hot Black Tea
2 Large Eggs, beaten
250g / 9 oz Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
Makes 2 x 1lb loaves or 1 x 2lb loaf.
Grease the loaf tin(s). Cut a strip of greaseproof paper the same width as the tin and use it to line the base and ends.
Weigh the dried fruit, sugar and malt extract into a mixing bowl and pour over the hot tea. Stir well, cover and set aside to rest in a cool place for at least two hours or overnight. If you are in a hurry you can skip the resting phase and continue with the recipe but you may find that the fruit has a tendency to sink to the bottom of your loaf.
Pre-heat the oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2
Add the beaten eggs to the fruit mixture and mix well. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together. Add to the fruit mix, stir well and pour the mixture into the prepared tin(s).
Bake the 1 lb loaves for 50 minutes (1 hour and 20 minutes for a 2lb loaf) until firm and well risen. A knife inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
If you wish you can warm a tablespoon of malt extract in a bowl over hot water and use it to glaze the top of the still warm loaf. This will give it a glossy shine and a sticky texture.
Remove the malt loaf from the tin(s) and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Once it is completely cool it is best to wrap it and store it in an airtight container for a day or two as it gets even more sticky and delicious with keeping. Alternatively you can wrap it first in greaseproof paper and then in foil and freeze it at this stage. It will keep in the freezer for 3 – 4 months – leave it to defrost at room temperature overnight before eating.
Serve it sliced and buttered.
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