I regularly make fruit loaves at home as they always go down well with Mr S with a cup of tea when he gets in from work. I love a bit of fruit loaf myself and there’s nothing better than having a big slice slathered in butter. Apart from Yorkshire Tea Loaf with a nice chunk of good old Wensleydale cheese, I can’t get enough of Bara Brith.
Bara Brith is a Welsh version of fruit loaf. Translated from Welsh, it means Speckled Bread. Originally in some versions of Bara Brith, it is more like a bread made with yeast but I am more used to the loaf cake version. I love Bara Brith because it reminds me of my uni days. Back in the early 1990s I was at uni in Bangor and sometimes used to buy slices of bara brith in one of the local bakeries. Mr S lived in Ceredigion for about 10 years before his family moved to Norfolk and we love going back to visit his childhood haunts including sampling all the local Bara Brith and Welsh Cakes.
On our last holiday in Ceredigion, we went to New Quay Honey Farm which is down the road from where Mr S lived as a child. The cafe there had some delicious honey themed cakes and bakes, including some Honey Bara Brith. We just had to have some.
Last Sunday afternoon I made some Bara Brith from my own recipe I created after this visit. My version has honey in it (not Welsh this time as I had what my local Morrisons had to offer) and instead of ordinary tea, I used a Twinings Camomile and Honey Teabag to infuse/ soak the dried fruit in. It gives the cake a wonderful aromatic flavour.
HONEY AND CAMOMILE BARA BRITH
275g mixed, dried fruit (I use whatever I have in the cupboard, so long as it adds up to the right quantity)*
1 camomile and honey tea bag (Twinings or similar)
3 tbsp good quality runny honey
1 large free range egg, beaten
85g soft, light brown sugar
Grated zest of lemon
350g self raising flour
1 tsp ground mixed spice
*For the Bara Brith made at the weekend, I used a mixture of currants, raisins, mixed peel and dried apricots as that’s what I had left in the cupboard. I’ve also used sultanas, glace cherries and cranberries as well in the past.
The night before you want to bake the cake, you will need to soak the dried fruit. I usually do this in a large bowl. Put all the dried fruit into the bowl. In a measuring jug, make up the camomile tea with 350ml of boiling water. Leave the tea to brew for about 10 minutes. Discard the teabag then stir in the honey. After this, pour the tea onto the dried fruit and leave to soak overnight. I leave it with a clean tea towel on top of it.
When you are ready to bake your Bara Brith, pre-heat the oven to 180oC/ Fan 160oC/ 350oF or Gas 4. Grease and line a 900g or 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment. I prefer to use loaf tin liners (available from all good cookware shops).
Strain the dried fruit into another large mixing bowl but reserve the tea for later. Stir the beaten egg into the fruit mixture.
Add all the other ingredients to the fruit, folding them in carefully so that everything is mixed well. You can then add in the reserved tea bit by bit until the cake mixture has a dropping consistency.
Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 1 1/2 hours until the cake is risen and firm. If the cake looks like it is browning too quickly on the top, cover it with some foil to allow it to bake for its full time. Test the cake with a skewer and if it comes out clean, then it is ready.
Leave in the tin to cool down for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool down completely.
When completely cool, the cake can be sliced up and served with butter.
Let me know if you try baking my Bara Brith. As I type it’s nearly time for lunch and I’m tempted to grab a slice of Bara Brith to keep me going until I have time to prepare something properly. There’s a couple of slices left in the tin!
Love Sam xx