Malt Loaf

Brand: Rowan Hill

Cost: 55p

Found at: Lidl

Lanarkshire is famous for its bricks. About four hours walk Northwest of my house are the Glenboig brickworks – closed down in the mid 70s. In the 1800s, these bricks were famous: able to withstand incredible temperatures they were used in furnaces from Australia to Nova Scotia, and still turn up today on the websites of avid brick enthusiasts.

This malt loaf, a Scottish snack from the same era, is very much cut from the same cloth: as if a brick was somehow Cinderella-ed into a dessert. It certainly looks like a building material: squat, brown, slightly burned and surprisingly heavy for its size. The texture is extremely dense and gooey, almost like fudge, but with a malty flavor: a little like molasses but not quite. This mildly sweet malt bread is one of those tea snacks that falls squarely in the spectrum of “heritage desserts” – pleasant, but unfamiliar to a modern palate trained on the chocolate-vanilla-strawberry trifecta.

It’s good and I enjoy it (especially with a little butter) but whenever I try it, I can’t help but think of industry. There is just something evocative in this little loaf: something that calls back to an era of steel and shipyards and bricks. It’s as if the bread remembers a much harder existence that I do not – and I feel almost guilty because, in my soft, gentle little life, I can’t quite live up to it.

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