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.
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!
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.
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?
Warm the cake before serving.
Spread with a generous amount of (salted) butter.
My Welsh ancestors would be proud!
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