Beer Bara Brith: a twist on a Welsh classic
Bara Brith, the inspiration for this beery bake, was a childhood favourite. My Grandma, a proud Yorkshire-woman, had no boundaries when it came to baking and offered us an endless supply of the Welsh classic. Everything she baked was from memory, learnt rote after many years. I recently asked my Mum about the Bara Brith recipe to be told there was no recipe, no book of secrets. I turned to the internet and through trial and error put together my own version and one that I think is close enough to the original.
The main part of a standard Bara Brith is soaking dried fruit overnight in black tea. The shriveled raisins and sultanas become plump and hydrated. The thought occurred to me that replacing tea with beer wasn’t a bad idea. Something dark and rich to suit the season and the dried fruit and sugar. So, here’s a boozy alternative to the old classic. I made two versions; one using Brains Black, a nod to the country of origin, and another with Nail Stout for a local Aussie twist. This is baking for time poor, great spread with butter, served with a cuppa or maybe a beer.
- 450g mixed dried fruit
- 300ml dark beer
- 450g self raising flour
- 175g dark brown sugar
- 2 medium sized eggs, preferably free-range
- Pinch of salt
A couple of teaspoons of mixed spice is used in standard Bara Brith but depending on the beer used I found that it pays to tweak the spice mix. For the Brains Black Bara Brith I used a half teaspoon of cinnamon, another of ginger and a full teaspoon of ground cardamon. For the Nail Stout Bara Brith I used a tablespoon of ginger powder and a teaspoon of cinnamon.
- Place the dried fruit and beer in a bowl and leave overnight to soak. Next day the fruit should be plump with some residual beer left over.
- Preheat your oven to 165 degrees Celsius.
- Line your tin with baking parchment. A loaf tin is preferable but others with depth are fine.
- Add the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and mix.
- Crack and beat the eggs into the wet fruit and beer mixture.
- Add the dry mix to the fruit and beer a third at a time, mixing well with a wooden spoon. The consistency should be thick and sticky, able to fall from the spoon but not pour. Add water if required.
- Fill the tin three quarters, leaving room for rise.
- Bake for 1½ hours at 165c. The loaf should be springy to the touch and golden on top. You can always test with a skewer. If it comes out clean it’s ready. Leave 5 min in the tin, then remove and let cool on a wire rack.