Intense, rich, and bold are the adjectives that come to mind when describing this moist, gingery bread. Dried plums are plumped in brandy, then combined with ginger preserves, molasses, and espresso to create complex and spicy flavors. The tea bread keeps well and actually improves with a day's rest. Serve with butter or cream cheese.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously butter a 10 x 4-inch loaf pan and set aside.
Combine the dried plums and brandy in a small pan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the brandy has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the ginger preserves. Set aside to cool.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add the molasses and mix until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating the first completely before adding the second. Do not overbeat.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise.
In another small bowl, combine the espresso powder with 3 tablespoons boiling water, and then stir in the vanilla.
Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and blend on low speed. Add half of the espresso mixture, then half of the remaining flour mixture and mix. Add the remaining espresso and flour, and mix just until smooth. Stir in the reserved dried plum and ginger mixture.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until the bread is set in the middle and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, 80 to 90 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the bread cool for 15 minutes. Then turn the bread out of the pan and allow it to finish cooling on the rack. To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap. It will keep in the refrigerator for 10 days or in the freezer for one month.