Bara brith, sometimes known as "speckled bread" (the literal meaning of the original Welsh-language name), is a fruit bread which originated in Wales. It is traditionally made with raisins, Zante currants and candied peel.
In Argentina bara brith, which was brought to the country by the Welsh settlers who started arriving in Chubut province in 1865, is known as torta negra ("black cake") and is a traditional food item there.
There are many different recipes for this bread, which is baked and sold commercially in some parts of Wales. The bread has a limited shelf life and is best eaten as soon as possible.
To make one loaf.
- 8 fl oz (225 ml) milk
- 2 oz (50 g) brown sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
- 4 level teaspoons dried yeast
- 1 lb (450 g) strong plain flour
- 1 level teaspoon salt
- 3 oz (75 g) butter or margarine
- 1 level teaspoon mixed spice
- 1 egg, beaten
- 12 oz (350 g) mixed dried fruit
- clear honey, to glaze
- 2 lb (900 g) loaf tin, well greased
- Warm the milk in a small pan until hand-hot. Put it into a bowl with 1 teaspoon of sugar and the yeast. Leave it in a warm place for about 15 minutes until a froth appears.
- Sift the flour and place in a large bowl with 2 oz (50g) of sugar and the salt. Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs then stir in the mixed spice. Add the egg and frothed yeast. Mix to a dough in the bowl before turning it out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place back into a bowl and cover with plastic film or a damp cloth. Leave it to rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes.
- After it has been left to stand 'knock down' the dough and knead again, adding the fruit slowly. Place into a bread tin and put the tin into an oiled plastic bag. Leave to rise for about 35 to 40 minutes and pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 190°C (375°F).
- When the dough has risen and springs back when pressed take the tin out of the bag and bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes. Cover the top of the loaf tin with aluminium foil to stop it burning and bake for another 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and tap the bottom of the loaf, which should sound hollow, if not bake it for another 5 minutes. Brush the honey onto the top of the loaf and cool it on a wire rack. Slice it thinly and serve buttered.
This recipe is adapted from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course and Delia Smith's Illustrated Complete Cookery Course.
In Wales the fruit is traditionally soaked overnight in cold tea.
A simpler variant without yeast
This variation is also popular - and uses baking powder and bicarbonate of soda as raising agents, rather than yeast. As above, soaking of the dried fruit in tea, for several hours, is essential to the taste and succulence of the loaf.
- 12-14oz brown or wholemeal flour
- 3-4oz brown sugar
- 4 oz dried fruit (soaked in black tea)
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 egg
- optional - glace cherries
- Soak the fruit in tea for several hours. Retain the fruit and the tea.
- Mix the flour, sugar, spice, baking powder and bicarb.
- Strain the dried fruit and add to the dry ingredients then start to mix.
- Add the egg, and continue to mix.
- Add the black tea in small amounts mixing as you go.
- Continue to add the tea until the mixture is thick, but runny - that is, it clings to a spoon, but any excess drops off easily (if you have used up all your tea, a drop of milk can be added instead to achieve this consistency).
- The addition of chopped glace cherries will further increase the moisture of the bara brith.
- Pour into a greased baking tin, and bake at 190°C for approximately 90 mins. Loosely cover the top for the first hour, to avoid burning. Once cooked, turn out and cool.
Serve sliced with butter and a cup of tea.