For anyone who hasn't heard of it before, malt loaf is a British tea-time fruit cake cum bread that is characteristically dense, sweet, squidgy and chewy and is usually eaten cut into slices and spread with lashings of butter but is equally delicious toasted, fried in butter or served with cheese.
As a child I used to love malt loaf and would eat quite a lot of it because my dad worked in a bakery and would regularly bring dark, brick-like lumps of the stuff home with him. As I remember, when he did it would disappear very quickly!
Like many of our classic fruit cakes, malt loaf doesn't seem to be as popular as it once was - I think Soreen are the only UK brand that still produce it on a commercial basis - but it's delicious to have with a cup of tea and so easy to make at home that it's worth giving it a go.
Malt loaf gets its chewy texture and malty flavour from malt extract, of which it contains quite a bit. Malt extract is made from grains and is a product of the brewing process. I don't really know too much about brewing but the grains are seemingly treated by 'malting' and 'mashing' them until the syrupy, sweet substance that is malt extract is created.
Malt extract is packed full of natural sugars and vitamins and can be found in larger supermarkets or health food shops. In early 20th century Britain it was given to children as a medicine as it was thought that a spoonful of malt extract every day would fortify children and ward off illness. These days it's most likely to be used in the home for home brewing or baking but I do still like to think that a slice of sticky malt loaf is doing me good in some way.
Some malt loaf recipes contain yeast - this one doesn't as I think it gives a better, more dense texture.
Malt loaf improves with time so, if you can resist it, once it's baked and cooled, wrap the loaf tightly in foil and leave it for 2-5 days to mature - it will become more sticky and squidgy over time. Or even better make two - one to eat straightaway and the other to eat after it's matured.
Makes two 450g (1lb) loaves.
150ml hot tea
150g malt extract
50g caster sugar
30g black treacle
250g dried mixed fruit
2 large eggs, beaten
250g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°F/Gas Mark 2 and grease two 450g (1lb) loaf tins with butter.
2. Put the tea, malt extract, sugar, treacle and mixed fruit into a mixing bowl and mix together.
3. Stir the beaten eggs into the mixture.
4. Add the flour and mix well until well blended then stir in the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
5. Pour or spoon the mixture into the loaf tins and bake for 45-50 minutes until the loaves are risen and golden.
6. Remove from the tins and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving, or wrapping and storing as outlined above.
Inspired by BBC Good Food.