I love a good tea-cake; toasted, lavishly buttered and enjoyed with a good mug of hot chocolate on a chilly winter's morning, it's the perfect way to start the day. Well, we haven't got the chilly mornings yet (not that you'll catch me complaining about that - I hate the cold!) but that just means that I'll have to make these again when such mornings roll around.
This week's 'Short and Tweet' challenge set up by @EvidenceMatters was to make Dan's Top Teacakes, to be found on page 88 of Short and Sweet or here, from the Guardian Guide to Baking.
I'm really glad that these were chosen for the challenge because I probably wouldn't have got round to making them otherwise. After all, I have been meaning to make them since November 2007, so I obviously needed an additional push! I think it was the scale of the recipe that put me off them - there is only me here to eat my baking efforts (although actually, my colleagues might quite like these!) so any bread recipe requiring 600g flour in addition to lots of other add ins and three eggs is going to take me a long time to get through. I decided to make 1/3 of the recipe (recipe uses three eggs, hence not halving it!) and also decided to make the teacakes much smaller. The recipe says nine, but I got six out of my 1/3 recipe, so mine are half of the recommended size. Having said that, these are still substantial buns, the original size must be massive!
I followed the recipe pretty closely (for me) - my kneading wasn't quite spaced as Dan instructed and I probably left the dough for about 1 1/2 hours in total for the first stage, and then nearly two hours at the second stage after shaping. My kitchen wasn't very warm, so I decided that after an hour I would encourage them a little by very briefly preheating my oven, turning it off and sticking them in there. This technique worked well, and I'll do it again.
For the ingredients, I used white chocolate, not beef dripping, raisins (roughly chopped) rather than currants, as I often find currants either seedy or stalky (whichever, they sometimes have nasty crunchy bits in them) and then used 1/4 tsp each ground ginger and mixed spice for the spices. Then, out of necessity rather than choice I used chopped dried cranberries instead of mixed peel. I discovered a while ago that whilst I hate chopped mixed peel, I really quite like candied peel that you can chop yourself. Sadly I haven't seen any in the supermarkets this year, and I'm upset that they seem to have stopped stocking it. If anyone has seen any, please let me know otherwise I'll have to investigate making my own!
I baked at 200C rather than 220C, (Gas 6 rather than Gas 7) because I always find these sweet, fruited breads colour too quickly when I bake at such a high temperature. That is also the case here, the buns are darker than I like, perhaps next time I'll try Gas 5. To compensate I baked for 20 minutes, turning the buns upside down after 15 minutes to brown the bases. It just means that they'll only need toasting on one side!
They're very tasty buns, but I do wish I hadn't darkened the crusts quite so much, I'm not a fan of dark crusts on sweet breads. The spice is very subtle, next time I might increase this a little more. The texture of these isn't the same as shop bought tea cakes, which are very light and fluffy. These are denser, but in a good way - after all, you need a good weight of bun to hold the melting butter and these are just right... There is plenty of fruit in the buns which is a good thing in my view, but again, I wish I had been able to get some mixed peel, there's just something delicious about the contrast of the slightly bitter mixed peel, the sweet bun and the rich melty butter.... mmm, melting butter!
Thanks to EM for picking these, and also to Jo for saying how lovely they were, without both of these prods to make them, I probably would still have left them.