June 25th, 2014

afternoon tea

Fruit loaf or in Welsh "Bara Brith"

Elsewhere on the internet, in a completely different forum, the inhabitants liked my recipe for Welsh cakes and requested the recipe for bara brith, so I'm putting it here so I can link to it. I hope some of my LJ users might be interested too.

This fruit loaf recipe is actually from a book called The Isle of Mull Cookbook which I bought in Scotland many years ago. But whenever I have given the fruit loaf to someone Welsh, they have declared it to be most excellent bara brith, so if a native thinks it's bara brith, then who am I to say it's not?

Anyway, "bara brith" just means "speckled bread", "bara" being "bread" and "brith" meaning "speckled". Besides, there is more than one kind of bara brith, but this recipe makes the cakey variety rather than the sort that is like a bread raised with yeast and with sugar and fruit added.

Bara brith

Note: This is a very easy cake to make (it must be if I can make it successfully!), but you do need to think ahead because of step 1 which needs to be started the day before.

Ingredients

12 ounces mixed dried fruit
4 ounces soft brown sugar
¼ pint of cold tea
8 ounces self-raising flour
1 egg
Pinch of salt

Method

1. Soak the fruit and the sugar in the cold tea for 24 hours.

2. Add the egg (lightly beaten) and the pinch of salt.

3. Fold in the flour.

4. Place the mixture in a lightly greased loaf tin. The one I use -- which is just the right size -- is 8" long by 4½" wide by 2½" deep. (21cm x 11cm x 6.5cm for those of you who think in metric).

5. Bake in a warm oven until its cooked. "Warm" being 335° F or Gas mark 3 or 170° C.

Right, now about the "until it's cooked" part...

The recipe book said 1½ hours and that worked brilliantly when I used an Aga[*] and also the gas cooker I had when we first lived in our present house. However, my current electric fan assisted oven takes much less time; it also requires a setting of 10° less than the stated temperature for a normal oven. I'm assuming that you know your own oven and whether it tends to run hotter or cooler, but I suggest testing after 1 hour and taking it from there. (To test, poke with a skewer and if it comes out clean, it's done. Otherwise, bake for a bit longer.)

What you're aiming for is a nice even brown all over. It won't rise much and it forms a dense cake which is delicious eaten cold and spread with butter.

This cake keeps really well if wrapped in foil or plastic and kept in an airtight container. In fact is better a day or so old -- if you can bear to leave it sitting for that long!



[*] Well, the Aga burned coke and you just got whatever temperature it felt like offering you at that moment, which depended on how long it was since you last riddled and fed it and the direction of the wind. But it was wonderful for baking cakes and I never burned anything while using the Aga, though things did tend to take longer to cook.
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