Bara Brith might seem like an autumn or winter sort of bake, but for me it is good at any time of year when you need something comforting and homely. That makes it perfect for the rain we’re being plagued with at the moment. It really feels like autumn; I’ve spent my evenings huddled under a blanket with a book and a chai latte for company. Comfort food is absolutely required, diet be damned!
There are two schools of thought on Bara Brith: a tea loaf or a yeasted bread with a bit of dried fruit speckled through it. Your allegiance seems to be based on the very first bara brith you ever tasted. My Bara Brith falls into the tea loaf camp as I can’t recall ever having a bready version. It seems to me that it would be like Starbucks fruit toast, which is very nice, but not my idea of a Bara Brith! Apologies to those who love the bread-style version! The tea loaf version, aside from tasting gorgeous, has the advantage of not requiring kneading and can all be mixed in the same bowl leaving you hardly any washing up! The recipe is very child-friendly,too, if your little one(s) like to join you in the kitchen. I made Lucas do 90% of the work. He’s beginning to mutter about child labour…
I should also add that Bara Brith travels very well. I took a huge one to Cornwall last year when we went on holiday–very good toasted towards the end of the loaf–and I can imagine tucking into thick slices around the campfire. (Should camping be your thing.)
Thanks to Lucas’s neverending spirit of adventure when it comes to potentially weird flavour combinations I’ve discovered that bara brith goes very well with a smear of peanut butter and sliced banana on top. I felt rather like Elvis when I ate my slice!!
However you choose to eat it, a slice of bara brith is a most excellent way of brightening up your day!
Bara Brith, my way
450g mixed dried fruit
300ml strong black tea (I used two teabags steeped for about 10 minutes)
175g brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
zest and juice of one orange
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
450g self-raising flour
To top: crushed sugar cubes, pearl sugar or jam sugar
The night before: put the dried fruit in a large bowl, pour over the tea and give it a good stir. Cover and leave overnight to let the fruit plump up.
Next day: preheat the oven to 140C fan oven / 160C conventional. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
Add the sugar, syrup, zest and juice to the mixing bowl. Mix well. If your brown sugar was lumpy let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve. Beat in the egg. Finally sift the flour and mixed spice together into the fruit mixture. Beat together.
Spoon into the prepared tin. Give the tin a few bangs on the worktop to remove any air pockets and level the top. Sprinkle generously with the sugar topping.
Bake for 1 3/4 hours, checking after 1 1/2 hours. It’s done when a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
Leave to cool completely in the tin.