Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Bread Baking Adventures: Bara Brith



Baking Bara Brith

Eileen, had mentioned a Welsh bread known as bara brith (spotted bread), which is a sort of tea loaf/fruit cake made with tea soaked raisins/mixed fruit, several times in her blog.  I was curious.  So I looked it up on line and found several recipes.  The recipes varied a little bit, but, basically, one soaks dried mixed fruit (raisins, sultana, currents, etc.) in tea, overnight, then, add flour and an egg and bake it.  I wanted to try making it and had mentioned it to Eileen a couple of times.  I was waiting until it got cool enough to bake.  But, last night, I decided it was time to try making this bread.   

Why last night, you might ask?  Well, you see, I was going to make myself a cup of tea in the evening as I usually do, and I left the tea to steep, as I usually do, then went to do something else (as I often do - yesterday, it was to feed the cats, both Dancer and Mama Cat), got distracted with something in the garden, then, took the trash cans out and decided to pull up the dead osteospermum plants in the second flower bed in the front, and forgot all about the cup of tea!  I noticed it only when I went to the kitchen to warm up something for my dinner!  I don't like reheated tea (it tastes different to me) and I don't like iced tea, and I didn't want to waste the tea, either!  So, what to do with the cold tea?  Why, just the thing to use for soaking mixed fruit for the bara brith I had been planning to make, of course!

Except...I didn't have mixed fruit!  Not a problem because I had raisins!  Currents are small black raisins and I had some small black raisins, sultanas are what is usually known as golden raisins here, in the US, and I had some of that, too.  But, a whole pound of raisins?  That sounded like a lot of raisins to me.  So, I opted for a little over 8 oz. (I carefully weighed out 8 oz. of the black raisins and then, tossed in a handful of the golden raisins/sultanas!)  

Many of the recipes also called for candied peel.  Hm, no candied peel on hand, but, I had some dried orange peel (from my very own oranges) in the freezer, so, I tossed in a little of that (didn't measure; about a teaspoonful?).  

Next, 300 ml. tea - I had a cup of cold tea and I added some water to make it about 1 1/4 cup, which is about 300 ml.

I put the raisins and orange peel into a small mixing bowl and added the tea to it.  The recipe had said hot/warm tea, but, I just added it cold/room temperature (in other words, I forgot to heat it!)

Some of the recipes I had read said to use brown sugar, others said demerara sugar, which is usually known as raw sugar, here; I used brown sugar, adding 1/2 cup to the raisin/tea mixture.  Then, I covered the bowl and let it soak overnight.

This morning, I continued with my bara brith making.

The quantity of flour in the different recipes ranged from 250 grams for 450 grams, but, they all specified self-raising flour, which, I don't have!  I decided to use 1 lb. all purpose flour and I added 3 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder to it and forgot to add the salt that you are also supposed to add along with the baking powder!  The dough was already in the oven before I realized I left out the salt!  Oops!

Some of the recipes also called for "mixed spice" - I don't have "mixed spice", so I used about 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, half a freshly grated nutmeg (maybe about 1/2 tsp.?), a little bit of ground ginger and thought it would be fine.  I didn't want to bother with grinding cloves and cardamom, but, they would have been good, too.  I added the spices to the flour and gave it a stir.

Then, I mixed together the soaked raisins and the soaking liquid with the flour/baking powder/spices mixture and added in the one egg called for in all the recipes.  My batter looked a bit dry.  

At least one recipe I had read had said to use marmalade in the mixture - I have a little bit of ginger marmalade and I thought that would go well with the batter and added two teaspoons of it to the mixture.  

The batter still looked a bit dry to me (of course, I had no idea just how wet or dry this batter should be).  Some recipes mentioned adding butter to the mixture, but, by this time, it was past noon, the day was warming up (today's high was 98F and it was about 95F around noon, already), my plan to bake this while it was still cool in the morning was not working out, and I didn't want to take the time to look up recipes to see how much butter I should add.  Instead, I added a drizzle of pancake syrup and mixed that in!   By now it was probably no longer bara brith batter (none of the recipes included pancake syrup as an ingredient!) but, we'll just call this Bless' version of bara brith!

The next problem was the size of the loaf pan!  Almost all the recipes called for a 2-lb. loaf pan!  I have several loaf pans, but, I don't think any of them is a 2-lb. loaf pan!  The largest loaf pan I have is a 8.5"x4.5"x2,5" pan, which is more or less the standard size of loaf pan used here.  One recipe did state use a 9"x5" loaf pan and the online charts to find the dimensions of a 2 lb. loaf pan just seemed to be confusing to me.  So, I put most of the batter into a regular loaf pan, filling it about 2/3 full and put the remaining batter into a small foil loaf pan.  I think all of it could have gone into the bigger loaf pan, but, I didn't know how much this bread would rise and I didn't want to have any dough over flowing and having to clean the oven!

I baked the bread in a 325F oven; the smaller loaf for 35 minutes (I tested it with a skewer which came out clean) and the larger loaf for an additional 20 minutes.  Some recipes said to glaze the top with honey, but, I omitted that step since I had already added pancake syrup to the batter!  Others said to reserve a few spoons of the soaking liquid to pour over the top of the baked cake, but, I hadn't reserved any.

Then, I sliced the smaller loaf and tried a piece without butter, first, and with butter (which melted quickly because the bread was still warm).  I like the taste both with and without butter.  I think I used just the right amount of raisins for me.

I like the fact that this bread can be made without butter (which is getting to be a rather expensive ingredient, these days) and just one egg.

Plus, I only dirtied three of my four mixing bowls!  LOL.  Next time, I'll use a larger bowl to soak the raisins!

The recipes do say to cover and keep the bread overnight for the flavors to develop.  Considering the fact that I've eaten half of the smaller loaf (it's what I had for brunch, today),  I think I like it just as well on the first day!  LOL.   I will be making it again!  But, I might wait until it is a bit cooler!  LOL.


A Slice of Warm Bara Brith with Butter

Thank you, Eileen, for introducing this bread to me.  

Today, I am grateful for:
- Eileen making me curious about trying this bread
- Online recipes and conversion tables
- A working oven
- An experiment which turned out well
- Gas for the oven and electricity for the fan!

Today's joyful activity was baking my version of bara brith!  

Have you had bara brith?  Or a version of it?  Is it something you might consider making?  Do you have as much of an adventure as I do when it comes to baking and adapting recipes?  

32 comments:

  1. I look up your recipes all the time and have them bookmarked to try on a non-keto day/week/month (who knows) so I understand reading about something and trying it later. Now I am going to have to try this bread, but much later!

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    1. LOL! Yes, sometimes I think I enjoy reading recipes more than trying them out! It's going to be way too hot to bake in the next several days (triple digit days in the forecast!).

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  2. Bara Brith is lovely - and as you have discovered, it is very adaptable to what you have on hand. Different sugars, or fruit combinations etc. It keeps well in a tin. There is a story that William Sangster, a famous clergyman, was sent to work in Wales. Many of his church folk were Welsh speakers, and he only knew one phrase "Boro Da" which means "good day". He and his wife moved on the Saturday and a kind neighbour brought them a cake. He asked her it's name.... The next morning, people at church were very confused because as they left, he shook hands, and cheerfully said "Bara Brith!" to each of them! Have a Boro Da with your Bara Brith, Bless 😊

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    1. Thank you, Angela! I seem to recall you making a type of loaf cake that required soaking dried fruit in tea in an earlier post. wondered if I could use some different dried fruits, too, but, since this was the first time trying this recipe, I didn't want to take too many liberties and turn it into something entirely different! :D

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  3. Oh Bless well done on making your own version of bara brith, I'm so impressed and happy that you did it. Now I have to own up I have never made bara brith myself, I buy shop bought ones which are very tasty. My mother used to make it from a recipe passed on to her from her uncle, my Great Uncle Will. I'm so pleased to know you will be making it again. Was your daughter impressed with your making a Welsh tea loaf? I know I am :-) xx

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    1. Thank you, Eileen; I did say I was going to make one! Yes, I remember you saying you didn't make your own bara brith. I read that the original versions were made with yeast bread dough. That was interesting to know, too! Do you have your mother's recipe?
      My daughter applauded my baking skills, but, she doesn't like raisins, so, she will not sample it! I took a couple of slices of the tea loaf to neighbor S and will share a slice with gardener M. I will be making it again, later, when it is baking weather! Thank you for introducing it to me, Eileen. :)

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  4. What a great use for the cold tea & yes left over tea reheated is not the most pleasant of tastes. Your Bara Brith looks very tasty & my Welsh Gran use to make her regional version of Bara Brith. Have you tried toasting a slice of the bread?

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    1. Thank you, Mary-Lou. I haven't tried the bara brith toasted, but, it did occur to me that it would be quite good, toasted! I am planning to slice some of the bigger loaf and freeze for later and I thought they'd be fine, toasted and buttered!

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  5. That sounds so much fun and exactly how baking happens (if it happens) at our house. I always find that things taste better if I don't stick to the exact letter of the recipe and I enjoy it more.

    It's funny how translating recipes is like translating poetry. You can often get the sense, but not always the exact flavour. And you should absolutely use that much raisins. Something like Bara Brith or traditional Christmas cake in our household used to be very much more dried fruit than batter. I bet yours tasted amazing though! The pancake syrup sounds inspired.

    I don't know if you would find it interesting if you are playing with lots of different recipes, but I've found a mix for mixed spice on the BBC here https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/user/388309/recipe/mixed-spice and it looks like you could perhaps switch it with pumpkin spice for a near match.

    And now I'm tempted to make some Bara Brith.

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    1. It was rather fun to experiment with a new recipe and convert from grams and liters and even British pints (20 fl. oz) to ounces and cups and US pints (16 fl. oz.) and come up with my own substitutions! :D
      I am sure it would have tasted even better with the full amount of raisins; maybe the next time I make it. :)
      Thank you for the link for the mixed spice recipe. I had looked up what mixed spice was and one recipe did suggest pumpkin spice as a close match. Maybe I will mix up a batch of mixed spice and keep it on hand for future baking projects!
      Maybe you can enlist Bear's help with baking some Bara Brith!

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  6. And they say baking is an exact science! : ) Did you ever add the salt? One time I forgot to put the salt in a yellow cake and it was not good. I was surprised it could make that much of a difference.

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    1. LOL. Some cakes do require exact amounts of ingredients to rise, but, fruit cakes, etc., are rather forgiving. No, I didn't add the salt! The bread was already in the oven by the time I realized I hadn't put in the salt! Not adding salt didn't really make a difference in this case, although adding it would have improved the flavor. :)

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  7. That does look delicious. I'm going to have to make myself a cup of tea now :)

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    1. I'd share a slice of the bread with you to have with your tea, Jules. :)

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  8. Well done Bless. It looks good and I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's always good to find a new recipe that's a keeper.

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    1. Thank you, Eileen. :) I did have fun making the bread. I need to slice up the bigger loaf and freeze some of it for later. :)

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  9. Yum. I want to try some. Regine
    www.rsrue.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Regine; if you like fruit cake, then, you will like this bread!

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  10. I'm glad you tried Bara Brith. It's something I make from time to time and it is very pleasant to eat. I like your substitutions. They are a good idea when you know what you are doing. I once made a Christmas cake in Europe modifying the recipe with what was available in the stores and it turned out reasonably well.
    Something was making noises on the porch at midnight and this morning I found that the peanut feeder I had hung in the backyard on a pole with hook had ended up empty on the grass and the pole was tipped over. I suspect a raccoon or small bear. The other peanut feeder was still intact hanging from the end of the porch. I also heard something in the attic, probably a mouse as the sound gets magnified, and this morning I heard the strangest metallic sounds like someone drilling metal again and again. I suspect a woodpecker on one of the satellite dishes. The wildlife really had it in for me!

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    1. It reminded me of a type of date bread I made, once. Substitutions are the way to go!
      Oh, my goodness! The wildlife is making quite a bit of noise! The poor woodpecker trying to drill holes in satellite dishes! I sometimes hear noises under the house and I know it's the garden cats and possums!

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  11. Mum used to make this fairly often when we lived at home, for the reason you mention: low fat, one egg (although we liked to spread it with butter when eating it!) I think I have made it a couple of times myself, but not that recently.
    I think the last time I had it was on a Ramblers walk, when a lady bought it to share. I remember her husband going on about how it was a gluten-free, vegan version and claiming you would never know the difference. It was really kind of her to bring and share but honestly you definitely could tell the difference. (I will let you guess whether it was better than the original or not...)

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    1. I, too, have been eating it spread with some salted butter - tastes delicious, that way, especially since I forgot to add salt to the dough! :D
      Hm, I suppose if one is allergic to gluten, then, gluten free products are wonderful. And I've nothing against people who are vegan. But, I am not sure about the taste being the same. :)

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    2. I don't have anything against coeliacs or vegans either!

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    3. I didn't mean to suggest that you did, Lady Ella. I'm sorry if it came out sounding like I did! When possible, I try to keep to the original ingredients used to make a certain dish. I have substituted certain ingredients when needed, though!

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    4. That's a relief. TBH the story had a bit more to it, with a kind of funny punchline but when I started typing I wondered whether it was really worth going into all the details and thought better of it. I should probably have just deleted that bit rather than try to truncate it... Anyway, the great irony was that the couple were neither coeliac or vegan ... just into "alternatives". (And who am I to talk - considering my efforts with love cake which is quite different from your version!)

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    5. Trying out alternatives can be good, I suppose. I've tried a few alternatives, going to vegan restaurants for one reason or another; they were OK, but, if I don't know if I'd become a vegan (I've been vegetarian for short periods like 3 months at a time). I think my bara brith making is a little like you trying out my love cake recipe - a bit of an adventure! :)

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  12. Your Bara Brith sounds lovely! You were very creative with the substitutions!. I'm with your daughter, not liking raisins also! But I've found that dried cranberries work well as a substitute. I might try this when it's a cold winter day!

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    1. Thank you, Celie; dried cranberries would be a great substitute for the raisins, I think! :)

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  13. It looks delicious! I love how you adapted the recipe and looked up the conversions lol. Wish I was close enough to taste it!

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    1. Thank you, Sharon. I am very pleased with how it all turned out, substitutions and all! :D

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  14. I love this kind of cake - although I've never had this particular one with the tea, I might soon try it. I do like fruit cake type of fruit and peels.
    I have a raisin cake that I make every year around Christmas that I look forward to.
    It has a pound of raisins in it and lots of yummy spices:)

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    1. I remember you mentioning your raisin cake with 1 lb. raisins in it. I think it was called War Cake? The bread I made probably would have been better with the whole pound of raisins - I might do that, next time. :)

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