In Wales, as in so many countries, it was customary for the women of the household to designate one day as “baking day”. The entire day would be spent making all the breads, rolls, cakes and biscuits that would be needed for the week. Using any bread dough that was leftover from making the yeast breads would then become the base for this bread. Adding leftover tea, spices, dried fruits, sugar would then become that family’s Bara Brith.
Bara Brith or in Welsh “Speckled Bread” is exactly what it is … a bread speckled with dried fruits. Traditionally this is a yeast bread, but it is quite often made as a quick bread. As with any regional recipe, each family has their own version. This one might be a bit different from some that you’ve had in the past, why? because it’s MY version …. and it is delicious!!
If you are a fan of “the Great British Bake Off“, as I am, you might remember that one of the contestants actually baked her version of a yeasted Bara Brith as her entry on Season 4. Click on the link below and you’ll find her recipe. My version is a quick bread … but keep in mind you do have to let the dried fruits soak in the hot tea for a couple of hours in advance.
Bake 350°F for approximately one hour. Makes one large loaf.
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almonds (optional)
(if not using ground almonds, increase flour to 2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot black tea
1/2 cup dried raisins (or any dried mixed fruits, diced)
1/2 cup dried dates, diced (or prunes, apricots, etc.)
1 apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter
In a bowl, mix together the dried dates and dried raisins (or any combination of diced, dried fruits). Pour one cup of hot, strong black tea over the fruits. Cover and then let them plump up for at least three to four hours (or overnight, if you’d like).
Grease a one pound loaf pan. Sift together the dry ingredients. I love the flavor of almonds, and the texture that it gives this bread. Use ground almond meal if you have it, or omit it and increase the flour to 2 cups. This is all up to YOU.
Peel and grate one cooking apple (not a Mac or Macoun – too juicy).
In a large mixing bowl add all the dry ingredients, the brown sugar, the egg, the melted butter, and the dried fruit/tea mixture (with all the tea liquid).
Beat together until well blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for one hour. Test after about 50 minutes for doneness.
When done, turn out onto a cooling rack and then put the kettle on.
This bread is so-o-o-o moist and delicious, you’ll have a hard time not eating the entire loaf yourself!
If you have the opportunity to visit Wales, be sure to make time one afternoon to stop for a spot of tea and enjoy a slice of this moist, sweet bread with it. Slather it with butter if you like, but it’s not really necessary. It stands up very well on its own. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit Wales, do yourself a favor and make this bread!! (The photos don’t do it credit.)
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References: Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood’s British Baking, Traditional Welsh Recipes