Bara Brith

Hello! After a rather long hiatus, we’re recommencing regular service. Let’s just say that my priorities were elsewhere over the last few months, but when the important moment arrived, everyone said “yes” at the right moment!

Today’s post is a piece of classic British baking. Well, more precisely, a classic from Wales. The name – Bara Brith – translates as “mottled bread” and you can see how it got its name when the loaf is sliced. It is packed with lots of sultanas and raisins, which are plump from having been soaked overnight in sweet tea.

This is something of a teatime classic, and is probably at its best cut into slices and spread with salted butter. If you like jam or honey, then go for it, but I think simplicity is best. When you’re faced with a platter of very sweet treats, a slice of Bara Brith provides a nice balance. I’ve been taking slices of it when we go out for the day – it’s a great addition to a picnic, and robust enough to handle being carted up hill and down dale without any problems.

And this is definitely one easy recipe. Make your tea, mix it with sugar and dried fruit, and leave overnight to soak so that the flavour of the tea infuses the fruit. The next day, you add an egg, flour and spices, then mix and bake it. Given this, one of the great things about Bara Brith is that you can make it with things that you’re probably already got in the baking cupboard and the fridge, and beyond leaving the fruit to soak overnight, it can be whipped easily, so perfect to make when you’re expecting guests. Or at least, more modern versions allow for this – some recipes still suggest using yeast to make a light loaf, but I find that’s just a bit more work that relying on self-raising flour, and I like to keep things easy.

I’m sure that each Welsh granny has her family recipe which they swear is the best, but I’ve tried a few different versions of this loaf and settled on the one below – it’s got a high ratio of tea to fruit, sugar and flour, meaning that the batter ends up quite wet compared to others that I tried, but I think the secret to getting a soft, moist loaf. I tried a version that used more fruit and flour, and the result was drier and denser. Some might like it that way, but I did not. And as with most things, the more tea, the better.

For the tea, I had a rummage in the cupboard to see what we had. Earl Grey or jasmine would certainly give you a very aromatic loaf, but I went for my all-time favourite, a good, strong brew using Assam. If black tea is not your thing, then you could easily use something like rooisbos, green tea or any other infusion you like, or even just orange juice instead.

Finally, there is the question of whether you add other flavours – some don’t add anything more, while some recipes add orange or lemon zest, and others like to add some spices. I’m a bit spice fan, so I’ve added some Christmas mixed spices and extra cinnamon, but you can go with whatever you like.

So how authentic is this? Well, I made it and served it to a Welsh friend, Lowri. I asked her to score it out of 10, and waited, secretly hoping for a 9 or even a 10.

Lowri mulled it over, and gave a sensible 7, on the basis that this wasn’t a family recipe that went back at least three generations. Fair enough!

To make Bara Brith (makes 1 loaf)

• 100g raisins
• 150g sultanas
• 150g soft brown sugar (e.g. muscavado)
• 300ml hot black tea (e.g. Assam)
• 1 teaspoon mixed spice
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 275g self-raising flour
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 2-3 tablespoons milk or orange juice

1. Put the fruit and sugar into a bowl. Add the tea, mix, cover and leave overnight to soak.

2. The next day, make the loaf. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

3. Take the fruit mixture. Stir in the spices and the beaten egg, then add the flour and mix well. Add as much milk or orange juice as needed to make a soft batter. Pour into the loaf tin and smooth the top if needed.

4. Bake the loaf for around 50-60 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If the top looks like it is browning too quickly, cover loosely with tin foil.



Filed under Afternoon Tea, Recipe, Sweet Things

21 responses to “Bara Brith

  1. I like the sound of a moister loaf as I always find bara brith a bit dry – I’ll definitely give it a go – thanks for sharing

  2. I’m so glad you’re back! I’ve tried a few of your recipes, with great success each time. I’ll definitely try this one since I’m a sucker for a tasty slice of bread-and-butter!

    • Hi Shannon – glad to hear that you’ve had some baking success with my recipes! I do live in fear of having missed something or giving duff advice, so nice to know that things are going well. This is definitely a good recipe – very easy, and very tasty.

  3. Deeksha

    Would you happen to know the eggless version of it?

  4. Welcome back! Lovely recipe – haven’t eaten this for many, many years. My grandfather was welsh and he used to bring it back from visits to the family.

  5. Looking forward to the Spanish-inspired posts, but this one looks fab, too! I’m not a great fan of the fruit bread variety, usually because I find it too sweet. Yours looks delicious, and I love the addition of tea. Great to see you again!

  6. Cynthia

    Nice to see that you are back. If the weather stays as unpredictable as it has been, we will definitely need some baking this summer.
    I have made Bara Brith before and found it too dry too, so I will have a go at this. (although planning ahead, even if it’s just for soaking, is not my strong point…)

  7. Cynthia

    Just made this today and I love it. I think it is actually quite sweet and am having it with some tea as we speak. My partner – who is not always that keen on anything containing dried fruits – has also approved and wants it for breakfast. Super quick recipe, definitely a keeper.

    • Hi Cynthia – glad that you liked it (I did not think it was so sweet, but I ate it with salted butter, and Scottish people do tend to have a sweet tooth). I’ve been making it quite often, it’s great for tea in the afternoon.

      • Cynthia

        Well, I have a sweet tooth, so I’m not complaining as it is perfect to eat as is. A next time I might use less sugar to see how that works.

  8. chefceaser

    Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.

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  10. So glad to see you’re back. I always enjoy your posts and your Bara Brith looks moist and delicious.

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