Introduction: 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:

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:

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.

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.

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.

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…..

Bread Challenge 2017

Runner Up in the
Bread Challenge 2017