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! 

DaybookNo. 103, in which a manuscript is revised (again!)

Daybook, memoir, writing, books, Tidying Up, foodEmily DeArdoComment

Outside my window:: 

Sunny and hot. Hot. Hot. HOT. Did I mention, hot? Not that I'm ready for two feet of snow, mind you, but I am ready for it to be not ninety

In the CD player::

Cassie and Maggie, and Joyce DiDonato's ReJoyce! recording. 


Cloud Atlas--I'm more than halfway through, and am by turns intrigued and frustrated. I'm trusting that the everything will congeal into a Pleasing Whole as I go through the second half. Since that's a library book, I'm giving it more attention than the other things I'm reading (including Middlemarch) and it's just one of those books that requires close reading, because if you put it down for too long, you'll forget everything, and that's not good in this book. 


So I am preparing to send the Memoir Manuscript to a publisher, to see if they'll take it. They want it completed. So I was doing what I thought was a brief perusal for formatting errors yesterday morning. No. It turned into a slash and burn editing session. I took out entire pages, plot lines, and people. I embraced the idea of "nothing that does not serve the story", and out went a lot of things. It was liberating, in a sense, and it definitely tightens things up. I also decided that it definitely needs an epilogue, which I'll write this week. Before I fell asleep last night, I was toying with the idea of moving some pieces around, and I think I might do that today/tomorrow too. This is what makes things better.  And it's sort of exciting, actually. It's like cutting away the fat from a piece of meat. 

Around the house::

So while the above was happening yesterday, I also decided it would e a good day to kick off "Kondo-ing" my house. If you've been anywhere near a bookstore in the past year, you've seen Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I've read it a few times, but I decided yesterday to get to it, and I started with my clothes, as she suggested. So far, three bags (trash bags) have been filled (no, they won't be trashed--they'll be donated. If the clothes are full of holes and torn up, then they go in the trash.). There is a huge pile on my bedroom floor that will probably take another two bags, and the hangers! It's incredible! Today we move on to socks, bags, accessories, and shoes (or as many of those as I can get done today). 

From the kitchen::

I made Irish Tea Brack yesterday from Clodagh McKenna's Irish Kitchen cookbook. I had a piece for breakfast, and it was delicious. It smells like gingerbread when it's baking. For dinner today, I'm trying a Jamie Oliver salmon stir-fry. I've got a very small grocery list that needs tending, as well. 

So in case you can't tell, yesterday was the Epitome of Crazy Busy, but good crazy busy--the kind that leaves you feeling very satisfied when you go to bed and look back at what you did. A good start for the first full week of September!