This week we are going back to one of our traditional and well-loved books titled "Full and Plenty" by Maura Laverty. In this post we are putting a modern spin on classic treacle fruit loaf from this book.
Fruit loaf from this recipe is moist, not too rich or heavy, with velvety and tender texture. The type of spiced fruit loaf you enjoy with or without butter, with your everyday tea or coffee. Preparation here takes 25 minutes. We are saving time in one step (reverse-creaming) to get more complex flavour by completing slightly longer second step (browning the butter).
Why it works
In this bake we are keeping Maura Laverty’s idea of sugar content in fruit loaves - it should be noticeable but not overpowering. Let the treacle and fruit carry most of the flavour. Moisture - it’s hard to get it right in fruit loaves. "Full and Plenty" does that beautifully. These are the two main points we took from this classic Irish cookbook.
Few additional things make it work:
- reverse creaming method - sounds fancy but it is one of the easiest methods which in this loaf contributes to tender and velvety texture. There is less flour in the cake in comparison to original recipe but the method, together with brown butter and buttermilk, keeps dense but moist texture intact. In this method the oven spring is moderate.
- brown butter - we took a bet on this one as we were not sure if melted brown butter will work in reverse creaming. It did. Also - it gave a nice nutty undertone to treacle (took the edge from treacle’s strength) and added extra shine to the skin.
- buttermilk - used here to achieve softer texture.
- rye adds to the texture and pairs up well with treacle - the result is not too cake-y and definitely not bread-y.
- spices and coarse sea salt are adding extra flavour.
- zesty sugar is used to balance strong black treacle flavour.
- fruit is soaked in small amount of warm tea to soften skins and infuse some moisture (but the excess liquid is discarded before the fruit is added to the batter).
Reverse Creaming Method
Few words on why reverse creaming method works well in this recipe. The idea behind this simple technique is that gluten won’t start to form until the flour comes in contact with liquid. Wrapping the flour in butterfat before the liquid and eggs are added creates a barrier which slows the formation of gluten. When preparing the loaf you will notice that the batter resembles a paste rather than your regular creamy batter achieved in classic creaming technique or ‘all-together’ approach. This is because less air is incorporated during mixing resulting in less doming and rise, giving more unified, velvety crumb. In this loaf, reverse creaming method beautifully wrapped the texture around the fruit resulting in nice and tender crumb with fewer air pockets.
That unsalted butter is only few minutes away from hazel-coloured liquid which will give your loaf extra depth and nutty notes.
When you bring the butter beyond melting point few interesting things happen. In first stage the water will slowly evaporate (all the hissing and noise). This will leave fats and proteins, which when cooked will start separating. As the proteins cook they will start creating little speckles which will start changing colour (from golden to brown). As proteins cook and brown it’s good to whisk the butter frequently to avoid burning. In this recipe it should take approx 8-9 minutes to brown the butter on low-medium heat. When ready - take off the heat, let cool for 2-3 minutes. Strain the butter through clean cotton kitchen towel/coffee filter/cheese cloth. That strained, clear, hazel-coloured liquid is your browned butter.
All in all - fruit loaf from this recipe is moist, not too rich or heavy, with velvety and tender texture. Store at room temperature (or in the fridge - bring to room temperature before serving) covered with dry kitchen towel. The loaf keeps fresh for 5 days.
Everyday Brown Butter Fruit Loaf Recipe
Yield: 12 servings
Time: 30 min prep + 60 min baking
Tin: 10cmx20cm (2lb) loaf tin
- 100g dried sultanas
- 50g dried prunes
- 50g dried cranberries
- 90g unsalted butter (*will yield 60g brown butter)
- 4 Tbsps (60g) caster sugar (to use with zests)
- zest from 1 large lemon (1 generous tsp)
- zest from 1/2 orange (1/2 tsp)
- 125ml buttermilk
- 2 Tbsps (50g) black treacle
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 230g all purpose flour
- 30g rye flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/3 tsp allspice
- 1/3 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 and 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 flat tsp baking soda
- 3 Tbsps (45g) demerara brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Grease baking tin with butter, line the bottom of the tin with parchment paper and dust sides with flour.
2. Prepare fruit (you may opt to soak overnight): Coarsely chop prunes and mix with sultanas and cranberries. Soak in 1/5 cup (50ml) warm tea. Cover and set aside.
3. Brown butter: In a small pot with heavy bottom cook butter until browned (see notes above) - 8-9 minutes on low-medium heat. When ready - take off the heat, cool for 2-3 minutes. Strain the butter through clean cotton kitchen towel/coffee filter/cheese cloth. Set aside until it cools to room temperature.
4. Prepare zesty sugar: Using your finger tips rub orange and lemon zests into caster sugar to release citrusy flavour. Set aside.
5. Prepare treacle buttermilk: In a small pot mix buttermilk with treacle and warm up slightly. You want to warm it up just enough for treacle to dissolve. You will use at room temperature.
6. Beat eggs: On medium-high speed beat two eggs until fluffy (1-2min).
7. Combine: Mix all purpose flour with rye flour, spices, baking soda, sea salt and sift into your main mixing bowl. Mix in brown sugar and zesty sugar (from Step 4). Add liquid brown butter and using stand mixer with paddle attachment or handheld mixer work on lowest speed until coarse and crumbly texture is formed. Add treacle mixed with buttermilk (from Step 5) and mix on low speed for few seconds, as a last step add fluffy eggs and mix on low speed until just combined. The batter will resemble a thick paste. Discard excess tea from dried fruit, add the fruit to the batter and mix for few seconds until incorporated. Transfer the batter onto the loaf tin, even out leaving a little hump in the middle.
8. Bake at 190C (175C fan) for 50 minutes, then decrease to 180C (165C fan) and bake for another 10 minutes. Check with the skewer if fully baked through. The skewer may come out moist but there should be no signs of unbaked batter. When baked, remove from the oven and let the loaf cool fully in the baking tin (1hr). If time allows, it’s best to give it another 12 hour rest before serving (to get the full blend of fruit, treacle and spices).
Jazz it up:
1. Brown butter gives natural shine to the skin (subtle glossy layer). If you want to go ‘all-shiny’ use vanilla brown sugar glaze from this recipe.
2. Use any type of dried or candied fruit: keep 100g of sultanas and add another 100g of fruit of your choice (cut bigger fruit like glazed cherries or candied ginger into smaller pieces).