There’s something about mid-October that I love — the weather, the thought that Halloween (and Thanksgiving) is right around the corner, and baking breads like this “brack,” a fruity loaf from the Quay House, in Clifden, County Galway. Dating from about 1820, it’s the town’s oldest building, was originally a harbormaster’s house, and later became a Franciscan monastery, a convent, and eventually a townhouse hotel owned by the Foyle family, whose ancestors have been entertaining guests in Connemara for nearly a century. Proprietor Julia Foyle serves this fruit loaf with a cup of tea to arriving guests and offered the recipe to me for publication in my afternoon tea cookbook Tea & Crumpets. I reused it in my newest cookbook Favorite Flavors of Ireland, available with free shipping until the end of the month, from www.irishcook.com
Quay House Tea Brack
Makes 1 loaf
4 cups mixed dried fruit, such as golden raisins, chopped dates, and chopped apricots
1/4 cup candied cherries, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or Mixed Spice (see Note)
11/4 cups cold black tea
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
Softened butter for spreading
1. In a large bowl, combine fruit, nuts, spices, and tea. Soak for 3 hours, or until tea is nearly absorbed.
2. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and line with wax paper.
Stir egg, sugar, and flour into fruit mixture and mix until well combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until top is golden and a skewer inserted into center comes out clean.
3. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack, remove the paper, and let cool completely before slicing. Serve spread with softened butter.
Note: To make Mixed Spice, combine 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 1 crushed cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, and 1 teaspoon allspice berries in a spice or coffee grinder. Process until finely ground. Add 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg and 2 teaspoons ground ginger. Mix well; store in an airtight container.