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Bara Brith is a traditional Welsh bread which is served at bakeries and tea shops all over Wales. It is sometimes called a cake, because of the addition of dried fruit and spices, but because Bara Brith is made with a bread dough, it is technically classified as a bread. It is usually served warm and buttered, and it toasts very well if there are any leftovers.
In Welsh, the name means “speckled bread,” a reference to the colorful speckles created by the addition of raisins and currants. Allegedly, Bara Brith was invented when a cook pressed dried fruit into the last of the bread dough at the end of the baking day for a special treat. Whatever the origins are, the fruit bread is very popular with most people who try it. If you want to request Bara Brith in Wales, try asking for “Bara Brith, os gwelwch yn dda,” or “Bara Brith, if you please.”
Breads made with dried fruit, nuts, and candied ingredients are very old. Before the discovery of leavening such as baking soda and baking powder, many sweets were made with bread dough. Many cultures have a tradition of sweet breads cooked as special treats on holidays and other special occasions.
To make Bara Brith at home, start by soaking one cup of raisins, currants, candied orange peels, and other dried fruit in tea overnight. Combine one package of yeast with three tablespoons of warm water, and allow the mixture to foam for five to 10 minutes. Add one cup of warmed milk along with five tablespoons of melted butter, three tablespoons of sugar, one large egg, one teaspoon of a spice mixture, and one teaspoon of salt. Slowly add four cups of flour to the wet ingredients and turn the dough out onto a board to knead for approximately 10 minutes.
After kneading, allow the dough to rest in a covered bowl in a warm place until it doubles in size, which should take a little over an hour. Punch the dough down and add the strained, tea-soaked fruit, kneading slowly. Once all the fruit is integrated, put the dough into a load pan to rise until doubled in size before brushing it with melted butter or milk. Next, put it into a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit (191 degrees Celsius) oven to cook for approximately 40 minutes, until the bottom of the Bara Brith sounds hollow when it is tapped. If desired, glaze the loaf with honey for an authentic Welsh touch.
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