Ireland: Sweet Caraway Luncheon Loaf
Tea cakes and quick breads featuring caraway (or caraways, as they call the seasoning here) have been popular in Ireland for hundreds of years. Possibly the best-known of these are seed cakes -- loaf cakes baked with plenty of caraway, sometimes sprinkled on top as well as included in the batter. When Winnie-the-Pooh mangled the phrase "customary procedure" into "Crustimoney Proseedcake", this kind of sweet-and-savory loaf cake is exactly what he meant. (It's probably no surprise that he came up with this, either, as Pooh's mind seems usually to have been on food when it wasn't temporarily engaged with more pressing matters.)
This seed cake is a little upmarket, since it contains chopped candied fruit peel as well as a little more butter than usual. It thereby becomes, in local terminology, a luncheon loaf. Such cakes and breads could of course be served at lunch if you were having someone special over then. But their final destination would usually be the tea trolley, along with the soda bread and various other cakes and late-afternoon treats.
Click on "read more" for the recipe and instructions.
- 1 pound flour
- 6 ounces butter (unsalted works best, but regular salted butter is fine too)
- 6 ounces sugar
- 2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 2 ounces candied fruit peel
- 2 eggs
- 12 fluid ounces milk (or buttermilk for a slightly tarter flavor and a higher rise)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375° F (a little lower if you have a fan oven) / 175° C. Liberally butter or otherwise grease a large loaf pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. (Or pulse them together in a food processor.)
Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, or pulse it with the flour, salt and baking powder in the food processor, until the whole business has attained the texture of coarse cornmeal / maizemeal. Chop the candied peel until the pieces are about the size of lentils, and add them to the flour mixture: or add to the food processor bowl and pulse some more until they reach this size. Add the sugar and the caraway seeds: mix or pulse again.
Beat the eggs separately in a cup or bowl and add them to the mixture. Then add the milk or buttermilk and mix until it's incorporated and a light dough has formed. If using a food processor, be careful not to overmix at this stage.
Put the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Take the pan out of the oven and let the loaf rest in it for ten minutes or so before carefully removing it and allowing it to cool on a rack.
Serve sliced and buttered, or with a drizzle of cream or a dollop of clotted cream.