Bake with Michelle Darmody: Afternoon pick-me-ups

Afternoon tea is beautifully and elaborately served in many places around the country and farther afield, writes Michelle Darmody.

The tradition has become increasingly popular in the past few years and most good hotels have their own version.

In reality an afternoon treat or pick-me-up at home will not have the same care put into its presentation.

I like to grab a granola bar or slice of a loaf cake to keep me going, especially if I have cycled or walked a lot that day.

The origin of afternoon tea is often credited to Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in the United Kingdom. Anna was a friend of Queen Victoria, serving as her Lady of the Bedchamber for some time.

In the 1800s dinner was often served late in the evening and Anna got peckish in the afternoon.

She took up the habit of serving tea and cake to her family and guests. It became popular for other ladies in her society to follow suit.

The practice was though to show your gentility and provided opportunities to teach children good manners, it demonstrated the decorum and respectability that were considered essential at the time.

The tradition lives on not least because it is a tasty one.

The recipes included today are all ones that can be baked ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

Each one is perfect for that afternoon pick-me-up. Loaf tins are handy as they allow for easy cutting and the slices are in turn easy to store, serve or transport.

Carrot, date and walnut loaf

200g of self raising flour

1½ tsp of baking powder

230g of golden caster sugar

The zest of 2 oranges

The zest of 1 lemon

50g of chopped walnuts

50g of chopped dates

3 tsp of ground ginger

225ml of light olive oil

225g of grated carrots

3 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and mix in the sugar, zest, walnuts, dates and ginger.

Add in the olive oil and grated carrot and stir until completely combined.

Add the eggs one at a time and stir thoroughly.

Scoop the mixture into your prepared tin and spread it evenly.

Bake for 1¼ hours or until a skewer comes out clean. If it is not baked put it back into the oven for 5 minute intervals.

Cool before removing from tin.

Apple and pecan nut loaf

225g of self raising flour

100g of soft butter

170g of golden caster sugar

120g of pecan nuts, finely chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

350g of mashed bananas

100g of grated apple

For the apple glaze

200ml of apple juice

60g of icing sugar

2 tbs of soft butter

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

A generous pinch of sea salt

Heat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Sieve the flour and rub in butter until it forms rough breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar and pecan nuts. Mix together and make a hollow in the centre.

Add in the eggs, mashed banana and grated apple. Mix all of the ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Scoop the mixture into your prepared tin and spread it evenly bake for 1½ hours on 180 degrees or until a skewer comes out clean. If it is not baked put it back into the oven for 5 minute intervals.

Allow to cool in the tin.

To make the icing:

Bring the apple juice to boil in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the butter, cinnamon, salt, and 50g of the icing sugar until well combined. Add remaining sugar to thicken the icing, as needed.

Pour the icing over the cooled cake and allow the icing to set before removing from the tin.

Raspberry and almond loaf

335g of self raising flour

180g of caster sugar

the zest of 2 oranges and 225mls of orange juice

1 tsp almond essence — optional

3 eggs, lightly beaten

4½ tbs of a light olive oil

150g of raspberries

A handful of slivered almonds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Sieve the flour into the caster sugar and stir in orange zest.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs, orange juice and olive oil.

When this mixture is well blended add it to the dry ingredients.

Stir in the raspberries and scoop the mixture into your prepared tin. Smooth the mixture out and sprinkle with the slivered almonds.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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