Bara Brith (Welsh “Speckled Bread” or Fruit Loaf)

Bara Brith Fruit Loaf

Bara brith is Welsh for “speckled bread.” We have enjoyed my mum’s bara brith for as long as I can remember. We used to call it “bun-loaf.” I was back in Wales recently and I queried Mum for the recipe. I discovered hers is a variation on a war-time recipe handed down by my step-grandmother. It seems that recipes for bara brith are many and varied. Some, as this bara brith recipe from the North Wales Tourism Web site, use baking powder. Other, like Delia’s version of bara brith use yeast.

PREPARATION TIME: 20 minutes
WAITING TIME: several hours (preferably overnight)
COOKING TIME: 3.5 hours
MAKES: 1 loaf (3″ x 3″ x 9″ approx.)

This is my variation of my mum’s variation of my step-grandmother’s original recipe (shown below right)!

Original bara brith recipeINGREDIENTS
14 fluid oz water
1 tea-bag (preferably British breakfast tea blend)
7 oz brown sugar
1 large pinch cinnamon
14 oz raisins and/or sultanas and/or currants
4 oz butter
7 oz white baking quality flour
7 oz whole wheat baking quality flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1 egg

METHOD

  1. Bara brith close-upPre-heat oven to 250 degrees F (unless you are planning to leave overnight as recommended in step 5, below).
  2. Add the water, tea-bag, sugar, raisins, cinnamon, and butter into a pan and bring to the boil for a few minutes until everything it dissolved.
  3. Leave to cool for several hours. This is important and makes a big difference to the finished bara brith.
  4. Remove the tea-bag and add the flour, baking powder, and egg. Beat thoroughly.
  5. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight. This is EXTREMELY important and makes a HUGE difference to the finished cake.
  6. Line a loaf tin with butter and aluminium foil and pour in the beaten mixture. Cover the top of the tin with foil, too, as this will help to keep the bara brith moist. Leave enough room for the cake to rise, though.
  7. Cook at 250 degrees F for three and a half hours. Check the bara brith is cooked by piercing with a sharp knife. If the knife does not come out clean, return it to the oven for another 30 minutes. Note that if I use my flexible, silicone loaf tins I have to cook for an additional 30 minutes, in any case. You may also like to take the foil off the top for the last 30 minutes to give it a slightly crustier top.
  8. EAT and ENJOY!

I found lots of bara brith recipes online. Here’s another bara brith recipe from Antonia Lloyd’s Food, Glorious Food! blog. This demonstrates very nicely the drive and determination to create *just* the right bara brith. Each family, bakery, and locale is likely to have its own secret recipe. However, generally everyone is agreed on the fact that the yeast variation is good toasted, whereas the baking powder variety is sliced and eaten like fruit cake. Both are excellent spread with Welsh salted butter.

Please note that the pictures shown with this recipe are of bara brith cooked by my mum in Wales. I live at an altitude of 4,000 feet in Reno, Nevada and high altitude baking  can be challenging. My first bara brith baked in Reno was lighter in color and not as moist, although still delicious. Half was gone 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven. I’ve since tinkered with the temperature and the amount of butter and liquids to produce a superior bara brith more akin to the ones my mum always manages to make.

The Brit

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