Is it Bread? or Is it Cake? – almost as hotly disputed as Rugby scores in Wales, the question of what makes the best Bara Brith can cause casualties! It is a traditional Welsh tea bread, flavoured with tea, dried fruits and spices loved by thousands throughout Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.
Originally made by adding mixed dried fruit, candied peel and spice to the last of the bread dough on baking day, Bara Brith, literally Speckled Bread was considered a real treat. When the Welsh sailed to Patagonia in 1865 to find a better way of life they took the tradition of making Bara Brith with them and in Chubut province to this day it is possible to find the sweeter Spanish version, more of a cake, called Torta Negra (Black Cake).
The introduction of raising agents encouraged cooks to use self-raising flour, which made the Bara Brith last longer and the original lard and whey was replaced with butter or margarine and milk, making a richer mixture.
Recipes are still passed down from generation to generation and most families have their own version, some still using yeast and some self-raising flour, many with their own ‘secret ingredient’. At Christmas time, extra fruit such as cherries and a mixture of nuts are often added.
Bara Brith is delicious served with a cup of tea but whether or not to soak the fruit for the recipe in tea is hotly debated. Many cooks soak the fruit overnight in tea to add moisture and flavour.
This is one of our favourite recipes:
450g Self-raising flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
175g soft dark brown sugar
1 medium egg
300ml cold tea (we like Earl Grey)
450g mixed dried fruit
2 tablespoons of marmalade
1 tablespoon of honey to glaze
– Soak the fruit in the tea overnight
– Mix the marmalade, sugar, egg, spice and flour
– Add the soaked fruit
– Mix well and put in a 900g loaf tin, level the surface
– Cook at 170C for one and a half to one and three-quarter hours until cooked through and golden
– Leave to stand for 5 mins and brush with honey to glaze
– Serve with Welsh butter, sit back and enjoy!