How to Bake a Gourmet Welsh Bara Brith with Dried Fruits and Spices?

March 8, 2024

In the heart of Wales, the aroma of freshly baked bread wafts through the air as the iconic Bara Brith is pulled out from the oven. This rich, fruit-filled and delightfully spiced bread is an integral part of Welsh culinary tradition, with a recipe passed down through generations. It’s perfect to accompany your tea and to share with friends or family. Here, we will guide you through each step to ensure you can recreate this delicious bread at home.

Gather your ingredients

Before you commence your baking journey, it is essential to prepare all the necessary ingredients. The Bara Brith, which translates to ‘speckled bread’ in English, owes its unique taste to a carefully balanced blend of mixed dried fruit, brown sugar and spices, all held together by strong Welsh tea.

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Here’s what you will need:

  • 2 cups of mixed dried fruit
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of hot strong tea
  • 2 1/2 cups of self-raising flour
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp of mixed spice
  • A pinch of salt
  • Butter (for greasing pan)

Once you have all your ingredients at hand, you’re ready to move to the next step.

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Start by soaking the fruit

This might seem like an unusual first step, but soaking the dried fruit is actually one of the secrets to a perfect Bara Brith. By immersing the fruit in tea for several hours, or better yet, overnight, you allow it to absorb the tea’s flavor and moisture. This will result in a moister, more flavorful loaf.

Start by placing the dried fruit and brown sugar in a bowl. Pour the hot tea over, cover and leave it to soak.

Prepare your dough

After allowing your fruit to soak, it’s time to prepare the dough. Begin by preheating your oven to 170°C (338°F). While the oven is heating up, grease a loaf pan with butter to ensure your baked Bara Brith won’t stick to the pan.

In a separate bowl, sift your self-raising flour, adding in the mixed spice and a pinch of salt. Then, stir the beaten egg into your tea-soaked fruit mixture. Gradually combine your sifted flour mixture, ensuring all ingredients intermingle and form a sticky dough.

Bake your loaf

Pour your dough into the greased loaf pan, using a spatula to level the top. Next, place your pan in the preheated oven. The Bara Brith will need approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to bake. However, oven times may vary, and it’s a good idea to check on it after about 1 hour. The bread is finished when it turns a dark golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Once baked, leave your loaf in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.

Serving your Bara Brith

Traditionally, Bara Brith is sliced and served with a generous smear of butter. However, it’s also wonderful just as it is, allowing the flavours of the dried fruit, tea and spices to shine through. If you prepare your Bara Brith a day ahead, the flavors will intensify, making it an even more delicious treat.

Remember this bread is not just a cake or bread, it’s a piece of the rich and delightful Welsh culture. Whether you’re serving it at a casual tea time or presenting it at a gourmet dinner, your homemade Bara Brith is sure to impress.

By following these simple steps, you can bring a slice of Wales into your own kitchen and discover the joy of baking this traditional Welsh bread. Happy baking!

Variations and Enhancements for your Bara Brith

Bara Brith is a flexible bread that allows for a little creativity. You can experiment with different varieties of dried fruit like raisins, currants, sultanas, or even candied lemon or orange peel. The unique blend of spices in the bread can also be adjusted according to personal preference. If you like a bit more warmth, add a touch more mixed spice. If you want it a little zestier, add some grated lemon or orange zest into the dough.

Some enthusiasts opt to add a little baking powder to the self-raising flour for an extra lift, though this is not traditional. If you want to add a modern twist to your Bara Brith, try incorporating some nuts for added texture. Walnuts, in particular, pair well with the dried fruit and spices.

If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, feel free to utilize it when mixing your dough. Just remember not to overwork it to avoid a tough loaf.

Once your Bara Brith is baked, it can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well with plastic, for up to a week. The flavors deepen and meld together over time, making this bread even more delicious a couple of days after baking.

Storing and Gifting your Bara Brith

Your Bara Brith is a delightful treat to share with friends and family. If you’re planning to serve your bread at a later date or wish to gift it, cover the cooled loaf with plastic wrap, letting it rest at room temperature. This allows the loaf to retain its moisture and the flavors to develop, becoming even more delicious over time.

If you’re gifting your Bara Brith, consider wrapping it in a decorative plastic wrap or in a beautiful bread tin. Let the recipient know that it tastes even better after a couple of days and should be stored at room temperature. This enhances the Bara Brith’s place as not just a simple Welsh cake, but a gourmet gift.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned baker or a novice, this Bara Brith recipe is a wonderful addition to your baking repertoire. Its heartiness, combined with the warmth of mixed spices and the sweetness of dried fruits, makes for a delectable treat that captures the essence of traditional Welsh cuisine.

Enjoy the process of baking, from soaking the dried fruit in strong Welsh tea, to watching your dough rise and double in size in the oven. Relish in the aromatic smells that fill your kitchen, and finally, in the sweet satisfaction of slicing into your homemade Bara Brith, spread generously with butter, and savoring your own little piece of Wales.

Remember, what makes Bara Brith truly special is the love and effort you pour into making it. So, embrace the process, adjust the recipe to your personal taste, and most importantly, share the joy of your freshly baked Bara Brith with your loved ones. Happy baking!