Introduction: Spicy English Tea Bread

Picture of Spicy English Tea Bread

Spicy English Tea Bread

Sweet spicy tea breads are very popular in England and are often made into flat buns called tea cakes. When these are toasted with butter they are delicious – especially on a cold winter day toasted on a long fork in front of a wood fire.

In Ireland they have a spicy bread called ‘barmbrack’ and in England there is a popular sweet bread known as ‘malt bread’. As the name implies, malt bread is made with malt. This Instructable combines the best of both barmbrack and malt bread.

I use this bread making method for all my bread and though similar to other methods, I like to call it “almost no-knead”.

As this is my first Instructable and I'm not especially computer savvy, especially with getting the photos in the right place, please go easy on me. The text is clear and the end product is to die for, but the Instructable itself is a bit amateurish. A vote would be good too...

Step 1: Ingredients:

Picture of Ingredients:

This recipe makes 2 large loaves and I small loaf:

7½ cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons instant dried yeast

3 cups warm water

3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar (not Demerara)

1/3 cup liquid malt

1 large egg (beaten)

¼ cup oil (eg olive oil)

1 teaspoon salt

2½ teaspoons mixed spice (usually cinnamon, ginger & cloves)

2 cups raisins

1 cup dried cranberries

And for giving a glaze to the finished loaves:

2 Tablespoons milk

1 Tablespoons sugar


1. You can use all white flour or switch one or two cups to whole wheat.

2. You will probably need up to half a cup of extra flour to get a good dough.

Malt is a type of sugar that can be found in most homemade beer supply stores. It is a thick brown liquid that adds a wonderful flavour to the bread and makes it a little chewy. You can NOT substitute molasses for malt. Molasses is a different thing completely. And do not think ‘if 1/3 cup is called for, ½ cup must be better’ as malt can do funny things to bread. Use in moderation is the key.

If you can’t find malt, you could add another tablespoon of brown sugar instead of the malt and you will have a close copy of my version of Barmbrack.

Step 2: Method:

Picture of Method:

This is what I do for all my bread.

1. Before going to bed get a BIG bowl and add:

3 cups white flour

2 tsp yeast

3 cups warm water (body temperature)

and stir to a thin batter. Cover well and put in a warm place overnight.

You will notice there is no sugar in this over night stage (called a poolish). Sugar is totally unnecessary in bread because an enzyme in flour converts the starch to sugar that the yeast can use. In my every-day bread I never use sugar at all partly because we have too much sugar in our diets already but mostly because it is unnecessary. This bread, being a sweet bread, has sugar added for flavor, not for the yeast’s benefit.

A friend once put the batter up on top of the kitchen cupboards overnight but he didn’t use a big enough bowl. In the morning there was batter dripping down the cupboards and spreading out all over the counter! What a mess to clean up! So a big bowl.

2. Also before going to bed, in a second bowl pre-mix:

4½ cups flour (may be 2 white and 1½ whole wheat)

1 tsp salt

2½ tsp spices

¼ cup oil (OK it’s not dry but this is a good time to mix it in)

3 cups dried fruit

Step 3: Next Morning.

Picture of Next Morning.

Next morning you will find the gluten has developed all by itself and you will have a lump of gooey gluten sitting in a very watery fluid. So, now pour off some of the watery liquid into a small bowl and dissolve the sugar and malt in that before returning it to the main mixture. (Or you could add the sugar to the main bowl, but it is easier in a small bowl). Then add the contents of the second bowl and the beaten egg. Stir until you can’t stir any more and then get your hands in it to make an even ball of dough. You will probably need about ½ cup more flour depending on humidity etc. You may work it on the kitchen counter, though on this occasion I did not. Then put the dough ball back in the bowl, covered, in its warm place for about 30 minutes. The gluten will develop during this time without, needless to say, the need to knead.

This 30 minutes is a good opportunity to butter/grease your bread tins.

Step 4: Shaping the Loaves.

Picture of Shaping the Loaves.

During the 30 minutes in your warm place the gluten develops nicely. Tip & scrape the dough onto your work surface and knead it a few times. Stretch and fold, turn, stretch and fold again. Then divide the dough into 3 pieces. This recipe made 6¼ pounds of dough, so for the 2 large tins I used 2¼ lbs (1 kg) and for the smaller tin 1¾ lbs (800 gms). Stretch and fold each piece of the dough to make a sausage shape that will go into your tins.

Step 5: Allow the Dough to Rise.

Picture of Allow the Dough to Rise.

I have an old apartment size fridge that I have converted to a warming cabinet by removing all the fridge stuff and putting a 60 watt light bulb at the bottom with a thermostat at the top. I can set whatever temperature I choose and know it will be constant.

Allow the dough to rise in your warm place for 45 – 60 minutes and when well risen bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 45 minutes. The sugar in the bread will caramelize and make a nice brown crust. Immediately the bread comes out of the oven, brush over the top with the milk/sugar syrup to give a nice glaze. Two or three coats in quick succession may be necessary to get a nice shiny glaze. Allow to cool. And then you know what to do…..


DrKZ (author)2017-03-27

Thanks so much for the additional malt-bread recipe, and indeed I did buy the darker malt, not being sure (once I was at the beer-making shop) which sort to get. It may be too late to incorporate the nice white crosses into this year's batch of Hot Cross Buns, but there is always next year. All the best!

Beekeeper (author)DrKZ2017-03-27

The recipe looks a bit of a muddle in the comment but when I typed it out it was all perfectly spaced and everything, and then when I clicked to send it, the text got all mixed up!! Anyway I guess you can understand it. Good luck.

DrKZ (author)Beekeeper2017-03-27

Perfectly understandable, thanks! Kate

DrKZ made it! (author)2017-03-27

Today I made this lovely bread, which seemed just perfect to turn into Hot Cross Buns (didn't have marzipan for the crosses, so I just sprinkled with pearl sugar instead), and indeed it was! Using a 9 x 12, 8 x 8 and little 5 in diameter patty pan, I made 30 buns of a wonderfully springy texture and light brown color: both the product of the dark amber malt, according to the owner of the beer-making shop where I bought it. I have made bread for years but had never tried the overnight-sponge method. It is quite true that -- other than when I kneaded in the extra cup of flour at the end of making the dough and when I kneaded each of the 30 buns into shape -- I did no kneading at all, and they still rose beautifully. My ONLY SUGGESTION concerns greasing: you have clearly greased your pans but made no mention of this in your recipe, and it is also necessary either to flour or grease the bowl that the dough rises in the first time, so that it does not tear upon being turned out on the counter for shaping. I will DEFINITELY make this again, and use my malt in other recipes. Thanks!!

Beekeeper (author)DrKZ2017-03-27

Wow - your buns look mouthwateringly delicious and thank you for your lovely feedback. This is my first Instructable and it is so satisfying to get such positive comments. You are right - I have neglected to include buttering the bread pans in the instructions, and I will correct that omission right away. Not sure about oiling the bowl though as I never do that.

My bread baking book gives a recipe for the Hot Cross Bun crosses which is: 50gms white flour, 1gm baking powder, 5 gms oil, 50gms water. Pipe the mixture on just before you put the buns in the oven. A small plastic bag with the corner snipped off will do. My book also says in medieval days the cross was to repel any evil spirits that might infect the bread but after the Reformation such practices were considered 'popish' (in England anyway), but the cross has remained as a symbol for the Easter bun.

I also have a recipe for malt bread which I could give you if you like as no doubt you have lots of malt left over.

DrKZ (author)Beekeeper2017-03-27

I do indeed have plenty of malt, and would love to have another recipe! Yes, I have read about that wheat-paste recipe for the crosses and may try yours when I "resurrect" my bread from the freezer for a Maundy Thursday dinner. It also may be that they used to be offered to quite another deity and were sanctified for holier uses! All three of those buns in the little tin have mysteriously vanished, incidentally, without needing honey or anything else. Thanks again!

Beekeeper (author)DrKZ2017-03-27

Not sure exactly what you mean about 'resurrecting' your bread from the freezer. Just to make it clear, you pipe the flour paste crosses on the buns after they have risen and immediately before you put them in the oven. The point is that the bun dough goes brown because it contains sugar (or malt in this case) and caramelizes whereas the flour paste, having no sugar, stays white.

Incidentally I use a light malt. It sounded like you have a dark malt that may be used for dark beers. The colour of what I use is pretty much as in the photo in step 1.

As for the malt bread recipe I'll add it below. As you will see it is very similar to the Spicy English Tea Bread. And as you will see it is mostly white flour because the malt bread I grew up with was all white flour and that seems to be the traditional way.

Malt Bread

Before going to bed, in a BIG bowl put:

3 cups white
all purpose flour

2 tsp instant

3 cups warm

Stir well and cover with plastic or a good
lid and leave in a warm place.

Next morning
butter 2 large bread tins.

3. To the overnight
batter (commonly called a sponge or poolish) add:

3 tbl
dark brown sugar

1/3 cup malt extract (this is a thick brown syrup-like substance
available from beer & wine making stores)

Stir to dissolve
the brown sugar (or stir and wait a bit & then stir again etc).

When the sugar is dissolved
add: (pre-mixed)

2 cups white
all purpose flour

1 cup whole
wheat flour

1 tsp salt

1½ tbl olive

1+ cups raisins

and work to a decent dough.

5. Return dough to the bowl, cover and leave for 30 mins in a warm place to allow gluten to
develop naturally.

Knead (minimal required)
, divide into two
pieces, shape and put in tins to rise.

7. When risen bake 45 mins at 375 degrees F / 190 degrees C

1). Another ½ cup of flour (or even more) may be necessary depending on
the absorbency of your flour and humidity.

2). It is normal to
brush the top of the loaf immediately it comes out of the oven with a syrup
made from milk and white sugar.

tsp = tea spoon / 5ml

tbl = Tablespoon / 15ml

1 cup =
240ml approx

Anoni Mouse (author)2017-03-12

I don't have any malt ... can I still made this bread?

Beekeeper (author)Anoni Mouse2017-03-12

Yes (and no). As I say at the bottom of the ingredients list (Step 1) you could use just 1 extra tablespoon of brown sugar instead of the malt and you will have a very nice spicy bread but not quite the same as if you had used malt. Don't use molasses as that is a different thing altogether. For some reason malt gives a very nice soft texture and flavour to bread.

Anoni Mouse (author)Beekeeper2017-03-13

Thank Beefeeper.

I was hoping to start the process off last night, that's why I asked ... turns out not only do I have no malt, but I don't have any dark brown sugar either!

Ah well. As I have to wait to get the sugar, I might as well get the malt st the same time!

I'll let you know when I've made it!

Thanks for the recepie xx

Anoni Mouse (author)Anoni Mouse2017-03-13

I meant Beekeeper!!!

Beefkeeper LOL!

RCP 58 (author)2017-03-12

Awesome, you and your recipe are an inspiration. I have fibromyalgia and haven't had the want to bake even during the holidays but you're instructable has given me the desire. Looking forward to baking again.

Thank you

Beekeeper (author)RCP 582017-03-12

Getting comments like yours makes creating Instrucables so worth while. Thank you. Bad luck with the fibromyalgia and I hope you can manage this almost no-knead method. Incidentally, I put a chair next to my oven to make it easier to get things in and out without having to bend over - bad back. Did you look at my other Instructable here? And a vote in the bread competition would be nice.

harrietsimonsgmailcom (author)2017-03-12

Wow, you are a dedicated bread maker: your own warming/rising place! Do you have any other uses for it?

Yes. I make my own yogourt all the time - every week anyway - and find it perfect for that. I mix up a litre of milk + starter and pop it in the old fridge overnight and voila, by morning I have a litre of yogourt. I've also used it as an incubator for hatching leafcutter bees but that is another story.

makemesomecookies (author)2017-03-10

Looks really tasty. Is it possible to cut the recipe in half to make less bread? Maybe even down to a third of the recipe. I find it's better to not have so much bread at once since my will-power gets pushed to its limits, plus no freezer room for extra loaves.

Also, love your hack for the warming cabinet!

You are right, it is really tasty and you need a lot of will power or a big family or friends to share with.
In my experience it is never easy to knead bread in the traditional way with lots of raisins in it, and it is very difficult to incorporate the raisins after it has been kneaded. This is why my overnight poolish is so convenient, combined with the second 'sitting' stage which together develop the gluten without the risk of mashing up the raisins.
I can see no reason why you couldn't halve the recipe. For my every-day bread I always use 3 cups of flour and 3 cups of water, plus the yeast of course, for the overnight stage as this makes a reasonable quantity. This ends up with two large loaves - one for this week and one for the freezer. If I only make one loaf at a time, in the long run I have to do twice as much work. See

Did you vote in the Bread Contest?

Swansong (author)2017-03-07

Looks delicious! :)

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