This was one of those spur of the moment bakes where I had all the ingredients in the house, took 10 minutes or so deciding how I wanted to bake it and then dove in.
Granted, I have been meaning to bake a loaf cake for a while. A dense fruity slice of Soreen slathered with double the amount of butter than loaf was one of my husband’s childhood teatime favourites. I bought the malt extract about six months ago in a bit to recreate his childhood memories, but without all those obnoxious preservatives.
I think what had been putting me off for so long was that all the recipes I had read told me I should be using yeast, meaning you have all that pesky rising time which I have to be in the mood for, probably why I have never excelled at being a bread baker. Then after further research, whilst procrastinating a trip to Sainsburys, I discovered some internet bakers disregarded this stumbling block and made their loaves with baking powder. No sooner had I stuck two fingers up at tradition then I was in the kitchen chopping dates and warming my malt extract.
Since I never got round to making the yeasted version I can’t in all honesty tell you what the difference was. All I know is that this version rose gloriously in the oven to produce a familiar dark treacly loaf, intense with fruit and made all the better with the requisite lashings of salted butter. Most of the dates melted into the loaf mix and the banana was really added in lieu of butter which I didn’t think it needed. The fruit notes are therefore subtle, adding more to the texture of the finished result than the occasional burst of sweetness that adding sultanas or raisins might have done.
Whatever you do, you must restrain yourself from tearing into the bread as soon as it comes out of the oven as it only reaches its optimum consistency once it has been wrapped in greaseproof paper and matured for a couple of days after the bake. The longer your leave it the moister the loaf.
The jury is out on whether this is a fruity bread or cake, although I suppose the lack of yeast definitely lends it more of a cakey vibe. But the special thing about this bake is that it fits the bill whether you are craving a sweet or salty mid-afternoon treat. After carefully guarding the loaf for the past two days, once my husband had caught whiff of its presence, it is now waiting happily in its greaseproof paper, getting even more moist and delicious, ready for its ultimate taste test later this evening. I don’t think anybody is going to be disappointed.
Sticky Date and Banana Malt Loaf
125ml freshly brewed hot tea
180g medjool dates
1 banana, mashed
70g malt extract + extra for brushing
70g black treacle
375g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soft dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
- Mix together the milk and hot tea and add the chopped dates. Set aside for 15 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease and line a 9 inch loaf tin.
- Pour the malt extract and the treacle into a small saucepan and heat until runny but no more.
- Turn off the heat then add the mashed banana and the soaked dates along with all of the liquid into the malt and treacle.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt, dark brown sugar and baking powder
- Make a well in the centre and add the egg and the liquid ingredients.
- Bring the flour into the liquid ingredients then stir everything together well with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the batter into the baking tin, sprinkling the demerara sugar over the top. Bake the loaf for an hour, covering the top with foil half way through if it’s starting to over-brown on the top.
- When it’s ready, remove from the oven, turn out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.
- When the loaf is cold, brush the surface liberally with malt extract then wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and leave to mature for 2 days before eating so the loaf gets lovely and sticky.