Happy St David’s Day! Or to our Welsh cousins, “Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!” It is no secret that here at Baking with Granny we are firmly a Scottish family but in celebration of the National Welsh holiday, we have managed to obtain a couple of traditional Welsh recipes to share with you. The first being Bara Brith.
Much like how Scotland have St Andrew’s Day, England has St George’s Day and Ireland has St Patrick’s Day, Wales have St David’s Day, a day in which they celebrate the the life of the patron saint of Wales. Each year on the 1st March, the people of Wales dawn daffodils & leeks, hold parades & concerts, and feast on traditional Welsh foods & drinks.
Such foods include Welsh Rarebit, Cawl, Welsh Cakes and of course, Bara Brith.
So what is Bara Brith?
The name originates from the Welsh words for “bread” (bara) and “speckled” (brith), so it quite literally translates to “bread speckled.” Presumably referring to the appearance of the dried mixed fruit, speckled throughout the loaf. And traditionally it would have been made using yeast and resembled more of a bread appearance & texture.
These days, it is made without yeast and is more along the lines of a moist, dense, sticky fruit cake. And it is truly delicious, especially when sliced and enjoyed with a generous spreading of butter!
Did you know “Baking with Granny” is “Podi gyda Nain” in Welsh?
Dried Mixed Fruit
Most supermarkets now stock an own-brand bag of dried mixed fruit, which is generally a combination of currants, raisins, sultanas and mixed peel. However, if you aren’t able to find one, or there is a particular dried fruit you aren’t keen of, you can easily make your own by mixing the individual fruits to the required weight.
Exactly as it sounds, you need a cup of hot tea. This is used for soaking the dried mixed fruit overnight, allowing the currants, raisins and sultanas to plump up a little. As well as adding moisture to the Bara Brith.
The teabag you have for your usual cuppa is just fine. For those overseas, a strong English Breakfast tea is what you are after. However, if you are feeling adventurous (and don’t mind straying from tradition) you could even experiment with different teas; an Earl Grey perhaps?
Soft Dark Brown Sugar
There is some sweetness within the dried mixed fruit but some sugar is a welcome addition to your Bara Brith. This recipe uses a soft dark brown sugar, however you could use a soft light brown sugar if that is what you have to hand. In fact, you could even use a caster, granulated, muscovado sugar…; whatever sugar you use will be dissolved in the hot tea, so texture isn’t a big factor, but different sugars will influence the over all taste of your final loaf.
One of my most favourite ingredients that adds a little something extra to the flavours of Bara Brith. You can buy little jars of Mixed Spice in my UK supermarkets but if you are overseas, you can easily mix your own from individual spices.
Bara Brith is quite a dense loaf cake but by using self-raising flour over plain flour, you allow just a little bit of lift to the end result.
The egg is an important addition to Bara Brith as it works like the glue holding the rest of the ingredients together. The size of egg isn’t too important, just make sure you are using free-range.
I should point out as well, that like our Welsh Cakes, this recipe comes directly from a Welshman; my godmother’s partner to be exact. We may be able to confidently claim our recipes to be traditional when they are Scottish but I wanted to make our Welsh recipes came from a reliable source too.
So, a special shout-out goes to Stephen for being kind enough to share his Bara Brith recipe!
- In a large bowl, place your dried mixed fruit, hot tea and sugar. Once the tea cools, cover and leave the fruit to soak up the tea and sugar over night.
- The next day, pre-heat your oven to 180°c (160°c for fan assisted ovens or Gas Mark 4). Line a 2lb loaf tin with grease proof paper and set aside.
- Sift the flour and mixed spice into the bowl of soaked mixed fruit. Add the [beaten] egg and mix everything together until well combined.
- Pour the mixture into your lined loaf tin, spreading to the corners. Bake in your pre-heated oven for about 1 hour, until dry on top and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Once cool, remove from the tin but keep the greaseproof paper lining on. Bara Brith is best enjoyed after a couple of days kept in an air tight container, sliced with a spread of butter/margarine.