I love Soreen malt loaf, but since acquiring a breadmaking machine I prefer to bake my own bread. I couldn't find a breadmaker recipe anywhere for a traditional northern malt loaf, so I experimented to produce my own. For those unfortunate enough never to have tasted malt loaf, it's a sweetish, malt-flavoured tea bread that is full of dried fruit. A buttered slice is a classic teatime treat in the north of England, but it's also delicious toasted and spread with jam for breakfast or as a late night snack. Since devising a recipe that works in a breadmaker I can have freshly made, mostly wholemeal, malt loaf whenever I want it, but without the Soreen ingredients I'd rather avoid (like palm oil and preservatives). Eaten in moderation, it's an excellent way of getting goodness-rich foods such as extract of malt, dried fruit, milk and wholemeal flour into children. If you use soya milk or another plant-based milk, it's suitable for vegans.
I use a Panasonic breadmaker which has a "speciality raisin" programme. You may need to make a few trial loaves tweaking the quantities of liquid a little each time, especially if you have a different brand of machine, until you end up with the texture you like. Some people prefer a sticky, squidgy texture, others a drier, firmer loaf that is more like an ordinary loaf of bread.
The measurements below are a mix of Imperial (UK) and metric, but I've given some rough US conversions for the milk and water. Actually, the precise quantities aren't too important, so much depends on things such as how dry the flour is, how accurately you can measure a spoonful of malt or treacle, the baking temperature of your breadmaker and your personal preference as to the final loaf texture. So give it a try, making notes on how much of everything you used, and be prepared to make adjustments to get the result you want.
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) fast-acting dried yeast (the type meant for using in breadmakers)
- 6oz sultanas or plump raisins (or a mix)
- 12 oz strong wholemeal flour
- 6oz strong white flour
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil (eg sunflower or olive)
- 1 dessertspoon malt extract
- 1 dessertspoon black treacle
- 300 ml (about 10 US fluid oz) semi-skimmed milk, or soya milk
- 100 ml (about 3.5 US fluid oz) water
Step 1: Loading the Breadmaker
Mix the two flours together. Place the yeast first into the breadmaker's pan in a little heap on one side. Then add all the other dry ingredients except for the fruit, on top. Finally, add the liquid ingredients on the opposite side of the pan to the yeast - the aim is to keep the yeast dry for as long as possible. If your breadmaker has a separate dispenser for fruit and nuts then put the sultanas or raisins in there, otherwise keep them back for now.
For breadmakers that can bake different sizes of loaf, choose the size setting that is most appropriate for the quantities you're using. For my Panasonic, that's XL.
Set the breadmaker going on the "speciality raisin" programme, or whatever other programme your machine may have that is intended for fruit breads.
If you need to add the dried fruit manually then set a timer to remind you, in case you aren't anywhere nearby when the breadmaker starts beeping. For a machine that doesn't tell you when to put in the fruit, do it shortly before the end of the kneading/mixing phase, before the rising phase starts. You want the fruit to be well mixed in, but not chopped up by excessive kneading.
Don't be dismayed if the dough seems very sticky when you lift the lid and peer in before baking starts. That's how it should be.
Step 2: After Baking
When the programme finishes, remove the loaf quickly or it might become soggy. Leave it to cool on a wire rack.
When you cut the first slice, check to see whether the dried fruit is evenly distributed throughout the loaf. Has it all sunk to the bottom? If so, try with a little less milk and water the next time. Or a different type of fruit.
Similarly, if the malt loaf is too sticky, or too soft to be able to cut it easily, the remedy is to use less liquid in the mix. But a malt loaf is meant to be somewhat squidgy.
Step 3: How to Serve It
I think slices of malt loaf are best toasted. The outside will crisp up and caramelise a little while the inside stays slightly chewy. If you then butter it or cover it in jam while it's still hot, the result is utterly delicious.
Actually, you don't really need to spread anything on malt loaf because it should be quite moist and sweet enough to eat on its own. Try half a (naked) slice with a cup of tea or in a lunchbox instead of a biscuit. Or spread on a generous amount of butter, as you would do with parkin, another northern speciality.