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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Bara Brith

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas FEBRUARY. 28, 2021

[211-365] 28th. February 2021- This is the only recipe handed down to me from my mother. I got it from her a few years back when I was given some Bara Brith by her and thought I should write it down and give it a try. She never wrote her recipes down and made a fruit cake all her life long which always came out exactly the same although she measured nothing, so she had to recite the recipe as I scribbled. Or if I use the old fashioned term she had to recite the receipt.

Receipt- ARCHAIC a recipe. Both receipt and recipe are thought to be ultimately derived from Latin recipere ("to receive"), making them probable relatives.

Bara brith is a bread enriched with dried fruit and either made with yeast or with self-raising flour (no yeast). It is traditionally flavoured with tea, dried fruits and mixed spices, and is served sliced and buttered at tea time. Bara brith derived its name from the Welsh language, bara meaning bread and brith translating as speckled.

This is my original scribbled recipe, so I can still hear my Mum reciting it, and it is very basic as it is an easy thing to make. You will note that the paper is riddled with pin holes. This is because it was pinned to my kitchen noticeboard for years before being collected together with all my other loose recipes into the front cover of The Dairy Book of Family Cookery, which I always thought would have made more sense had it been called The Family Book of Dairy Cookery. I'm not sure about the concepts of Dairy Books or Family Cooking. The one sounds impractical and the other like a horror movie. I suppose you could feasibly make a book out of those very yellow cheese slices but it wouldn't last long and I am not even venturing forth on the cooking of families unless they are families of tasty edible things like rabbits or sheep. This is my most heavily used book over the years and is showing it's age too.

It is the sort of book every teenager would leave home with, back in the sixties and seventies. That of course was a time when teenagers actually did leave home, rather than convert their childhood lease to long term, 5 star, hotel accommodation.

The Recipe-

1Lb Self Raising Flour (450g) If you don't have Self raising flour where you live you will have to use your local equivalent of raising agent for that amount of plain flour. There is no other raising agent in the recipe.

1Lb Mixed Fruit (450g) I just throw in whatever I have, preferably seedless. I detest dried fruit with crunchy seeds in. They should be illegal to sell, carrying at least three years behind bars.

2 tbs Warm Marmalade (30ml) That's just to make it runny so it mixes easily.

1 Beaten Egg Why beaten egg? Well I still remember my first cookery class at school. My friend Clive and I were the first two boys in the history of the school to take cookery, we broke the glass ceiling of male oppression. In that class we had to put eggs into test tubes, first white of egg then yolk of egg and then mixed beaten egg. I can't remember what happened, sorry, it was a long time ago. But I do remember that we were all surprised by the fact that all three reacted quite differently to heat and that beaten egg when heated set at a totally different temperature to either of it's constituent parts. So maybe that is why recipes specify beaten egg.

6ozs Brown Sugar (170g) You can use the really dark sugar which gives the loaf a darker richer colour or a mix of light and dark.

1/2 pt Warm Strained Tea (275 ml) It needs to be a strong tea, if you wanted to be a bit different you could even try Earl Grey which I must have a go with.

1 tsp Mixed Spice (5ml)

The Method- This is what I scribbled.

Fruit, Sugar, Bowl, Soak overnight in tea.

Add all ingredients.

Gas Mark 4, 1 1/2 half hours. ( 160C Fan 350F)

You can tell how simple it is from the instructions. Having soaked the fruit overnight just pre-heat the oven while you sieve in the flour and spices, add the beaten egg and marmalade and mix until incorporated. Don't beat it or overwork it, just mix gently until all the flour is absorbed.

It rises a fair bit so be prepared for that, I used a normal loaf tin which worked well. I also used a pre formed paper liner which I now use for most things as they are so convenient.

Some would say the beauty of this recipe is that there is no fat in it and honestly you wouldn't think it, as it is so rich and moist, but for me the beauty of this recipe is that it has no fat in it, which means you can compensate by slathering it in butter. Seriously though, Bara Brith is an enriched bread and not a cake so it is traditionally eaten like bread not cake, so it is usually buttered. In England a similar bread is known as Tea Loaf.

I nearly lost some very good friends this afternoon. When I made the Bara Brith I decided to help our waistlines by ruining theirs so we took half of it around to their house up the lane. Don't worry we didn't enter the property or even their garden and I handed them the Bara Brith tied to a very long stick. Unfortunately, what I didn't realise, not being interested in sport at all was that yesterday Wales beat England at Rugby 40 - 24 and consequently they were in mourning, being English. So who should turn up to add insult to injury but their Welsh neighbour with a long stick with Bara Brith dangling off the end, Bara Brith that just appeared to them to be grinning and mocking them in their loss and grief.

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