Welsh Bara Brith

Sunday September 25, 2016

Bara brith, also known as “speckled bread” (the literal meaning of the original Welsh-language name referring to the mixed dried fruit scattered in the bread), can be either a yeast bread enriched with dried fruit (similar to the Irish barmbrack) or something more like a dense fruitcake made with self-raising flour (no yeast). It is traditionally made with raisins, currants and candied peel.

There are many different recipes for this bread, which is baked and sold in commercial bakeries in many parts of Wales. The quick bread version keeps for a week. Welsh recipes favor soaking the dried fruit in tea overnight before the baking.

In Argentina, bara brith is also known as torta negra (“black cake”). One of the most traditional foods coming out of the Chubut valleys, it was brought by the Welsh settlers who started arriving in the country in 1865. Bara Brith (lit ‘speckled bread’) is traditionally eaten on St David’s Day or Christmas Day, in thick slices spread with butter. But now it is eaten all year round with tea.

Ingredients

2 Darjeeling, English Breakfast, or green tea bags (can be decaffinated)

1 1/4 cups boiling water

One 8-ounce bag mixed dried fruit, chopped (will be about 1 cup)

1 cup dried currants

1/4 cup diced dried pineapple

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons apple pie spice mixture or ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons orange marmalade (can be a no-sugar fruit spread)

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Instructions

In a 4-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup, pour in the boiling water or place in a microwave oven to heat the water.  Add the tea bags and let steep 10 minutes; remove and squeeze dry the tea bags.  Add all the dried fruit and sugar and stir well.  Let stand on the kitchen counter, covered with some plastic wrap, 1 hour to plump the fruit and come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325º (300º if using a dark finish or Pyrex loaf pan).  Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.   Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.  Add the soaked fruit and its liquid (about 1 cup), the egg, buttermilk, butter, and marmalade.  Stir with a large rubber spatula until well blended.  Scrape down the sides and spoon into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake until brown and crusty and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 80 to 90 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand in the pan 10 minutes.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool to just warm before slicing.  Can be made up to 4 days ahead and wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature.

Make one 9-by-5-inch loaf

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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