My home made, American Bara Brith - success!

An American Version of Welsh Bara Brith Tea Bread

During our trips to Wales we found that every little tea room served a wonderful fruit bread called Bara Brith – literally “speckled bread”. Recently, after having a tough bout of Bara Brith withdrawal, I decided to make my own, by adapting the Welsh recipe to Metric-impaired Americans like myself.

Bara Brith at the Plas Newydd tea room
Bara Brith at the Plas Newydd tea room

We had our first taste of Bara Brith in 2000 at the National Trust tea room at Plas Newdd, and I fell in love with it. ‘Raisin bread’ is too faint a term for this strong tea bread, and slathered with butter it’s a delight.

For some reason, it only recently crossed my mind that I could make that bread myself. A few searches later I found a suitably-authentic recipe at Visit Wales, and was ready to go!

…or not. It’s in Metric, which can be a bit of a puzzle for us Americans (sorry about that). …and it calls for “Mixed Spice”, another mystery. …and “Self Raising Flour”.

A few more searches turned up recipes for Mixed Spice – it’s a bit like Pumpkin Spice, but not quite – and Self Raising Flour, which is just flour with baking powder already mixed in.

After a few experiments in converting the Metric measures to something more familiar and baking the result, I now have an American version of Bara Brith! Nom, Nom, Nom!

Ingredients

The night before:

  • 1+3/4 cup nearly-boiling water.
  • 2 teabags of black tea, such as Earl Grey.
  • 3/4 Lb mixed dried fruit. For example, 6 oz each of currants and raisins.
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar.

The day of:

  • Baking parchment for lining a loaf pan.
  • 2 cups white flour.
  • 3 tsp baking powder.
  • 1 tsp British “Mixed Spice”. Mix the following, which produces about 12 tsp. Use 1 tsp of the mix per loaf.
    • 1 Tbl ground cinnamon.
    • 1 Tbl ground nutmeg.
    • 1 Tbl ground allspice (I omit this for my Bara Brith).
    • 2 tsp ground mace (I omit this as well).
    • 1 tsp ground clove.
    • 1 tsp ground coriander.
  • 1 large egg.
  • butter (salted butter) to spread on the slices of bread.

Directions

The Night Before:

Pour the nearly-boiling water into a bowl.
Add the teabags and let steep 10 minutes.
Remove the teabags.
Add the dried fruit.
Mix in the brown sugar.
Let it soak, covered with a plate, overnight.

The Day Of:

Preheat oven to 340° F.
Line a loaf pan with baking parchment (I use a glass loaf pan).
Sift the flour, baking powder, and the 1 tsp spices together in a large bowl. Mix well.
Add the fruit mixture, including the tea it soaked in.
Add the egg.
Mix well by hand with a spoon (a wooden spoon or spatula).
Pour the mixture into the lined loaf pan, and put into the oven.
Bake for about 1 and 1/2 hours, “until the cake has risen and cooked through”. Or until a cake tester (wooden skewer) comes out clean. Make sure the tester goes through the very center of the loaf; my first try on this recipe was a little unbaked in the center.
NOTE: If the top threatens to burn late in baking, cover the loaf with aluminum foil.
Turn out the cake from the loaf pan onto a cooling rack. Remove the baking parchment.

“Store for 2 days before eating” – who has that kind of self control?

Serving

Warm the cake before serving.
Spread with a generous amount of (salted) butter.

My Welsh ancestors would be proud!

Llanrwst, Wales, where my Whealdon ancestors came from
Llanrwst, Wales, where my Whealdon ancestors came from

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