Monday, 28 May 2007

Well Bread

The enormous Sunday dinner went very well - we even had enough left over to purée and freeze for James' dinners. The children were shattered last night - we put them to bed nearly on time, but after a late night on Saturday and a busy, exciting day yesterday, I wasn't at all surprised that Christopher slept late this morning. Actually, it was quite nice just to have a little time with James, who was in a lovely mood and very good company. I also made some Bara Brith this morning. I'd soaked some fruit last night, anticipating a nice bit of gentle kitchen pottering.

I make quite a lot of loaf-type cakes and like to bake two at a time in 1lb loaf pans; one for now and one to freeze. The one in the freezer is earmarked for the day before James' christening, as we will doubtless have people popping in and out as they arrive and I'd like to offer them something more than just a cup of tea.

Bara Brith is Welsh for 'speckled bread' and recipes for it vary. Some are very 'bready', or even made with a yeast dough. I prefer quite a cakey texture with a lot of fruit, so this is more like a traditional tea loaf than a bread, I suppose. It does taste best if you soak the fruit overnight, but if you forget (or if it's a spur-of-the-moment kinda thing) you could give the fruit and tea just enough time to cool down and go from there. The fruit itself is up to you - I use sultanas, raisins and plenty of mixed peel, which I love, but all sorts of things are good. In fact, it's quite a good way to use up all those funny ends-of-bags that are lurking in the cupboard. Well, in my cupboard, anyway. I usually use ordinary orange marmalade, but have made it with other preserves too. Apricot jam and ginger marmalade were particularly good.

Bara Brith

500g mixed dried fruit
cup of hot tea (with no milk added!)

Put the fruit in a bowl and pour the tea over it. Cover the bowl and leave it overnight.

100g butter
a good dollop of the jam or marmalade of your choice
2 eggs, beaten
450g self-raising flour
175g light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
splash of milk, if needed
demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Butter and flour two 1lb loaf pans. Melt the butter and jam or marmalade in a large pan, then set aside to cool a little. Stir in the beaten eggs, then add the soaked fruit. Mix in the flour, sugar and spices, adding a little milk if you think the mixture is too stiff. Divide the cake batter between the two tins, sprinkle over a little demerara sugar and then bake at 160°c for an hour. Cover the tins with foil after 30 minutes, to ensure that the cakes don't burn on top before they are cooked through.

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