Recently I went to my friend Becky’s house, almost entirely unannounced (I gave her maybe ten minutes notice). And as me and my youngest tumbled into her house, all fizzed up with after-school-ness, she proffered Soreen Malt Loaf, something I’d not seen, and certainly not had, for decades.
Malt loaf is not particularly British (the Swedish have something called wort loaf which is similar), but Soreen Malt Loaf is – it was originally made in Manchester in the 1930’s and still is.
Becky sliced and buttered a few slices and I tried really hard not to eat them all. Then I went home and decided to make it. I had no idea how, or how hard it was and it’s fair to say that, like a lot of things, home made malt loaf isn’t exactly the same as shop bought. But then, what would be the point. But it’s close. I’ve given this to people who know malt loaves and they have decreed it absolutely delicious.
Malt is apparently full of B-vitamins and is meant to be good for you, but it is, at its heart, just sugar so don’t go thinking this is a health loaf. The dried fruit gives you fibre, but again with sugar. So let’s not pretend this is anything other than what it is: cake.
This is adapted from a Good Food recipe, but there are loads on the internet and Nigel Slater has a very fine malt loaf marmalade pudding if you fancy sacrificing one of the malt loaves to this.
150ml hot black tea
175m malt extract plus a bit extra for coating the loaves
85g dark muscovado sugar
200g dried fruit – I use prunes, apricots and then some sultanas/raisins depending on what I have in. Chop them up
2 large eggs
250g plain flour – I sometimes add a small proportion of wholemeal flour, too, but not too much
One teaspoon of baking powder
Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
You also need two loaf tins and either baking parchment to line the tins, or loaf liners. If you use baking parchment you can get away with greasing the tins (with oil) and placing a long strip of parchment in the tin, so that it covers the bottom and the two short ends (so you also have something to lift out the cake with).
My loaf tins are about 22cm x 7cm (2lb ones). The cakes do rise; they do so uniformly and they about double so bear that in mind when you pour them into any tin you have.
It is so easy that you’d better have your oven preheated to 150C.
Pour the tea into a bowl and add the malt extract; mix around then add the sugar, the dried fruit and the two eggs. Mix gently until incorporated.
Now add the flour, baking powder and bicarb and mix together.
So easy isn’t it?
Now divide up between the two loaves. It’s fairly fluid so if you are using loaf liners careful that you don’t pour in too quickly as the liners can fold in on each other, I spoon mine in. But you do need to work fairly fast and get them in the oven.
Mine are done after 40 mins exactly but as ever, know your oven. They should be firm to the touch but not over cooked. As soon as they are out, brush more malt extract over the top, then leave to cool.
I wrap mine in foil whilst still warm (Soreen is packed whilst still warm to retain the ‘squidge’) and they are apparently even better after 1-2 days but mine have never lasted that long.
Serve, in time-honoured way, sliced, buttered and with joy.