One of the most enjoyable rituals of autumn is apple-picking. Every year around the end of September we choose a day to head over to a local pick-your-own orchard. Then we spend an hour or two out in the fresh, cool sunshine, scouting out our favourite apple varieties, plucking the fruit off the trees and packing them into bags and baskets, breathing in the fruity air tinged with smoke, sampling just enough apples so we don’t end up with the “scoots.” What better way is there to spend a clear autumn afternoon?
When we get home with our treasure, we usually find that we’ve got ‘way more fruit than we can reasonably use, so we parcel some out to neighbours and co-workers. The remainder end up in crumbles and betties and cookies. They’re stir-fried, baked, sautéed, and eaten out of hand, at and in-between almost every meal for as long as they last.
Sometimes I make applesauce, and was inspired one year to devise this delicious recipe. A tea loaf has a firmer texture than other types of cake so you can cut it into bite-sized pieces and eat it with your fingers. Or you can toast the slices, slather them with jam, and eat them with a fork. Either way they’re the perfect tea time treat.
Our favourite teas to accompany this tea loaf are current-year second flush Darjeelings (the autumnals aren’t out yet) with their rich muscatel flavours complementing the fruit in the loaf; a robust malty Assam to contrast with and play up the sweet apples; or a hearty blend of India teas that provide a foil for the flavourful spices in the loaf.
If you don’t make your own applesauce, don’t worry: the jarred kind from the supermarket works just as well. Do give this recipe a try – the aroma that fills the house as the loaf bakes is almost as wonderfully autumnly scrumptious as the flavour.
Applesauce tea loaf
About 8-10 servings
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sunflower or other light oil
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup seedless raisins or dried currants
Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare a loaf pan by lightly oiling and flouring. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the applesauce, oil, sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl or on a sheet of wax paper mix together the dry ingredients: flour, soda, and spices. Blend these into the wet ingredients with a wooden spoon, beating vigourously until smooth. Mix in the dried fruit, blending well to distribute evenly. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan, smoothing the top with the spoon. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave the loaf in the pan to cool to room temperature before slicing. Serve plain, or toast the slices and top with a spoonful or two of applesauce.
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