Emily M. DeArdo


Food Stories: Grandma's Coffee and Irish Tea Brack

food storiesEmily DeArdoComment

One thing both my grandmothers liked was a cup of coffee. I have a memory of the two of them sitting at a post-Thanksgiving table, coffee mugs in front of them, talking alone in the dining room, while the rest of the party had moved on to Football Watching. Grandma D. was talking, and Grandma H. was stirring sugar into her coffee. 

I think they both had coffee in the morning, too, but it was the post-dinner coffee that stuck with me as a kid. "Who wants coffee?" was a familiar question to the adults after just about any Big Meal or Family Gathering. (With the Italians, there was often wine. Of course.) 

As a child, I didn't really want the coffee--I wanted the mugs my grandmas had. They always had wonderful mug collections that I loved. Today, I have my own mug collection. I guess my love of pretty cups started early! 

My mom doesn't drink coffee, but my dad does, and both he and I take it pretty sweet. I have a few friends who drink it black, and my friend Mary had hers with just cream (or milk, depending on what was around). How you drink your coffee may be indicative of your personality, but I haven't really thought that through too hard. It's probably more indicative of your taste buds' preferences!

My grandmothers were of different ethnicities, but I think they both would've liked this Irish Tea Brack recipe (yes, Brack--that's the word. Not "bread").  Irish Breakfast tea and dried fruit, along with some allspice, make this a wonderful bread for having with tea or your coffee--whether it's drunk in the morning or after dinner. 

Irish Tea Brack

From Clodagh McKenna's Irish Kitchen

makes 1 loaf

2 1/3 c. mixed dried fruits, such as cherries, cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, currants, etc. 

1 c. cold Irish Breakfast Tea

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. packed light brown sugar

1 large egg, beaten

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. allpsice, cinnamon, or nutmeg (I use allspice)

Place the dried fruit in a bowl and cover with the cold tea. Let soak for at least 3-4 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x5" loaf pan. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and egg until light and foamy. Add the flour, baking powder, and spices, and mix together. Add the soaked fruit and any remaining tea to the bowl and mix together well. Transfer the batter to the greased loaf pan and bake for one hour. Unmold the loaf and let cool on a wire rack. 

Will keep for one week in an airtight container


The batter will look sort of scary before you add the fruit and tea--very dry and sort of sand-like. Don't worry. The tea will fix it!