Derived from germinated barley grains, malt extract (or malt syrup) imparts a lovely toffee flavour to baked goods. Paired with smoky rooibos tea and sweet dried pears, the texture of this deliciously dense loaf only improves with keeping. So if you can bring yourself to wait, wrap the loaf and store in a cool place for a day or so before serving sliced and slathered with salted butter.
2 rooibos (or other strong black) tea bags
60g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
200g dried pears, chopped into 2-3cm pieces
150g liquid malt extract/syrup, plus 1 tbsp extra for brushing
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
120g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
260g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
salted butter, softened, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (175C conventional) and line a loaf tin of about a litre capacity with baking paper, allowing a generous overhang at the long sides of the tin.
2. Place the tea bags and 180ml water in a medium saucepan and bring slowly to a simmer over medium-low heat. As soon as the water starts to simmer, remove from heat and allow the tea bags to infuse for 5 minutes. Lift out the tea bags and squeeze against a wooden spoon to extract excess liquid, then discard. Add the butter and pears and stir until the butter has melted, then add the malt extract (or syrup) and bicarb soda. Stir to combine – it will froth up a little – then add the brown sugar and beaten eggs. Mix until fully combined, then set aside.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl, then add the pear and malt mixture. Stir together until the batter is smooth, then scrape into the prepared loaf tin. Place the tin into a preheated oven and bake for about 50 minutes; a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out dry. Remove from the oven and brush the extra tablespoon of malt syrup all over the top of the cake.
4. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then lift the loaf out by pulling up on the overhanging baking paper and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. If possible, store the loaf for a day or two, wrapped firstly in a clean sheet of baking paper and then in cling film. To serve, slice thickly and spread generously with butter.
A word about substitutes: molasses or brown rice syrup can be used in place of the malt syrup, and other dried fruit, such as dates or sultanas, instead of the pears.