Recently, the remaining contestants of Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off tackled tea cakes in ‘Bread Week’. There’s nothing like the English version; a flatish, yeasted fruit bun, served toasted with plenty of butter and accompanied by a cup or two of good old breakfast tea. Better still in front of a nice log fire (if you’re lucky enough to have one) on a winter’s afternoon.
Tea cakes mean different things in different countries – even in different counties. In Scotland for instance they consist of rounded domes of mallowy fluff, on a chocolate biscuit base and covered in chocolate, whilst in Russia and Sweden tea cakes are part of the Christmas table and are small mounds of nutty, buttery sweetness; in the Southern States of the USA, a type of shortcake.
If that wasn’t confusing enough, let’s now consider the tea. Many Britons, including me, drink breakfast tea at teatime. In fact we drink it throughout the day. Breakfast tea is a blend of black tea and although the sales of fruit, herbal, green and white teas are booming, breakfast tea is still, I believe, the most popular hot drink in the Country.
Returning to the tea cakes, Paul Hollywood’s was my chosen recipe. He’s a little like Delia Smith for me – I don’t know if he’d be flattered or not but both offer consistently reliable recipes. I made just one change, leaving out the mixed peel and adding the grated zest of two oranges. I’m not a lover of chopped peel.