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Monday, October 28, 2013

bara brith welsh tea loaf

Americans hear "fruit cake" and think, "diet", "dry", "boring".

This is not an American fruit cake. Being extremely low fat and with an option of being sugar-free, too (and still tasting good), it could pass as a diet cake, I suppose. But this is not a cake in the way of American thought, and the purpose is not to be some dry, plain, diet, excuse for a cake because I need to lose weight and yet can't handle the thought of not eating cake.

Really. Try this.

Bara Brith means mottled cake, or speckled bread. It is a dark brown cake, sweet but not overly so, moist and dense, that beautifully compliments the flavor of a good cup of British blend black tea with milk at four o'clock in the afternoon. Tea time, of course. Toast a slice and spread it with just a tiny dab of butter. It needs nothing more. Best of all, it's so easy. Okay, you need a small amount of forethought to soak the fruit overnight, or first thing in the morning for a fresh tea time loaf, as I often do, but it is simple enough you can give the kitchen to a child and let them put it all together. Make it one of the first recipes they learn to prepare, along with scrambled eggs or a ham sandwich.


Bara Brith -- Welsh tea loaf 

Soak overnight:
12 oz of any dried fruit
8 oz cold leftover black tea

Add, and stir smooth by hand:
1 large egg
3 oz brown sugar or raw honey (optional)

Spoon into the wet mixture and mix slowly by hand:
8 oz flour mixed with 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and a shallow 1/2 tsp salt

Grease and flour one regular loaf tin or two half size loaf tins.
Bake 325 F for up to one hour (5 or so minutes less for half size loaves). The loaf will be done when a toothpick or sharp knife comes out cleanly. Tip out and let cool on a wire rack.


The dried fruit you use can be any kind. That said, some combinations taste better than others! My favorite is raisins, cranberries, pitted dates and apricots. Pineapple, papaya and apple work well. You can get creative with this. Chopped or whole dried fruits are up to you. Once soaked and then baked, it should all slice cleanly with a sharp knife.

Nuts make for a pleasant change on occasion. Make sure they are mixed in when you add the flour, rather than studding the top of the loaf with them, as the long bake time may crisp them up a little more than you desired.

Another variety is to add spices. Again, this is totally optional and the loaf is delightful made normally. However, spices such as cinnamon, ground orange peel, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, can add a lovely touch of warmth in winter or just change up the loaf for a bit of interest.

Yes, this works beautifully with freshly milled whole grain flours. I have used single and combined soft white, hard white, and hard red wheat flours and all are delicious. I keep reading on various sources about how difficult it is to make the switch from processed, shelf stable flours to whole grain home milled flours. I have not had this problem...but still, worth saying that this loaf is rather hard to make flop. Give it a try!


Per 1/12th of a regular loaf, made without sugar or honey, and with raisins and cranberries and dates, or with just raisins and a small amount of candied ginger, this will only cost you 92 calories. Other fruits will cost you more if they are not fruit sweet, such as sugared pineapple, but still one slice won't set you back too far.

Bara brith half size, with peanut butter bites, blackberries, and sliced pear

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