Since I posted a photo on Twitpic of a homemade Bara Brith, I’ve had several requests asking exactly what it is…
Bara Brith is the Welsh name for a fruit loaf and literally translates as ‘speckled bread’. It comes either as a yeast bread enriched with dried fruit or something resembling a fruitcake made with self-raising flour and no yeast. The dried fruit should consist of raisins, currants and candied fruit peel.
The ‘bread’ is common to all Celtic countries. The Irish call it Barm Brack, the Scottish refer to it as Selkirk Bannock, and in the Brittany region of France, it is known as Morlaix Brioche. It’s also popular in the Patagonian region of Argentina and Chile following the arrival of early Welsh settlers. There it is called Torta Negra or ‘black cake’.
There are many different recipes for this bread, each having some unique quality. Traditionally, Bara Brith is made with yeast but the downside to this is its limited shelf life and is best eaten soon after baking. The version made with self-raising flour can be kept for a long time. Many Welsh recipes favour soaking the fruit in tea overnight before baking.
The recipe that I used originates from North Wales and uses self-raising flour. You will need the following:
330g (14oz) mixed dried fruit
250ml brewed tea
330g (14oz) self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp marmalade
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 tbsp soft brown or golden sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
Honey to glaze
Soak the fruit overnight in the tea.
Next day, mix the marmalade, beaten egg, sugar, spice, flour and baking powder. Add the fruit and mix well until all ingredients have blended.
Place the mixture into a well greased 900g loaf tin.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160°C (320°F or gas mark 3) for 105 minutes or until the centre is cooked through. Check from time to time that the top doesn’t brown too much, and if necessary, cover with foil.
Once cooked, leave the Bara Brith to stand for 5 mins, then tip out of the tin on to a baking tray to cool. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top with honey.
Serve sliced with butter. It is also tasty with strong farmhouse Cheddar cheese. Store in an airtight container.