Saturday, 16 January 2016

Bara Brith

After last year's distinct lack of activity I am trying to take advantage of the fact I work part time to get baking fitted in.  Kudos to you if you are someone who can juggle a full-time job with your baking.  I envy you.  I just can't do it.  Not yet anyway.  Working on it.  The point is I'm aiming to get something baked (and ideally up on the blog) each week.  This week I was in a bread mood.  Actually, I've been in a bit of a bread mood for a while now but this week was extra bread-y since I made two different loaves.  Sadly, you're not getting the one of them quite yet because after doing a really good job the first time, the subsequent attempts have been a bit...flat.  The dough won't hold it's shape so rises sideways rather than up.  I think I may be over-proving.

But the other bread turned out well!  Having been obsessing over Bake Off the last couple of weeks (applications for the next series were due last Sunday) I have found myself reading lots of articles about the show and past contestants.  In amongst those I stumbled across one on Beca, who made it to the semi-finals in Series 4.  This article was specifically about her yeasted tea-loaf she made during the Sweet Dough week (and received high praise from both Paul and Mary): a Welsh bara brith.  Literally meaning 'speckled bread' it is a sweet loaf filled with mixed fruit.  And being a tea-loaf, it's obviously got a healthy amount of tea in there too.  

Aside from the fact I wanted to try something new and different, what really motivated me to make bara brith this week was the bag of mixed fruit sitting in the cupboard, as I still have loads to use up from making mince pies and panetonne over Christmas.  Even after baking this I have leftovers so mixed fruit may crop up again in the next few posts.

I did end up making a slight tweak to the recipe: I used instant yeast, not fresh.  According to my newest bread book (which I will gush about properly when I post a recipe from it) there's not much difference between them.  Instant yeast is more convenient (and what I had in my cupboard).  I just halved the amount required.

I sent this along to the lovely ladies at Markinch with my mother-in-law on Monday.  They are always so nice about my baking and appreciate what I send.  They've been enjoying this over the week and plan to make toast with any leftovers that may have gone a little stale.

Recipe - adapted from Beca Lyne-Pirkis via Wales Online
Makes 1 x 2lb loaf 

  • 450g/1lb strong white flour
  • 7g/0.25oz salt
  • 10g/0.35oz instant yeast
  • 75g/2.5oz butter 
  • 50g/1.75g brown sugar
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 350g/12oz mixed dried fruit
  • 1 egg
  •  225ml/8fl.oz strong warm tea (I used two Twinnings Breakfast Tea teabags steeped for 5 minutes in 225ml boiling water, then let it cool slightly)
Sugar Syrup Glaze:
  • 50g/1.75oz caster sugar
  • 50ml/1.75fl.oz water 
  1. Put the flour into a large bowl.  Add the salt on one side and the yeast on the other and rub into the flour to combine.
  2. Rub in the butter using your fingers until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Mix in the sugar, mixed spice and dried fruits until evenly distributed.
  4. Add the egg and tea and bring everything together to form a dough.
  5. Knead the dough until it is smooth (I stretch the dough away from me then fold it back on itself before giving it a quarter turn and repeating for about 10 minutes).
  6. Place back in your bowl and cover with an oil piece of clingfilm.  Leave to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about 1 hour).
  7. Grease a 900g/lb loaf tin.
  8. Knock back the dough, shape and fit into the loaf tin.  Cover with the oiled clingfilm and prove for another 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
  9. Once proved, remove the clingfilm from the dough and back in the oven for 20 minutes.
  10. Cover the bara brith with foil and leave to bake for another 25-30 minutes.
  11. Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  12. Make the sugar syrup by bringing the water and caster sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.
  13. Cook the mixture until it takes on a syrupy consistency.
  14. Remove and use a pastry loaf to cover the loaf in the glaze.
  15. Allow to set and cool before serving.

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