400g strong white flour
50g soft brown sugar
75g raisins or sultanas
50g mixed peel
1 teaspoon each, mixed spice, nutmeg and cinnamon
250ml lukewarm liquid (but hold back a little if you've steeped the fruit overnight)
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast (or 1 teaspoon of dried)
1 or more tablespoons olive oil
(Soak the dried fruit overnight in either tea – traditional – or water)
1. Place the flour, sugar, spice and dried fruit into a mixing bowl, and mix to distribute the ingredients.
2. Measure the liquid and stir in the yeast until it dissolves (dried yeast will take a little longer to dissolve than fresh). Add the yeast liquid, holding a little back, to the dry ingredients, and then the olive oil.
3. Remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Holding the bowl with one hand begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with your fingers. Check how the dough feels as you mix – it should stay soft and squidgy – and add more flour or liquid as needed. When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.
4. Knead (gently, the fruit will be very soft) by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. Knead only until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!
5. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove for an hour or so.
6. When you are ready to proceed knock back the dough and place in a greased 2lb loaf tin (or one lined with baking parchment). Cover and leave until it has risen appreciably.
7. Bake at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C, 350F or gas mark 4, for a further 15-20 minutes, checking after 10. Look for the sides of the loaf shrinking away from the tin.
8. The loaf is done when it is brown underneath. You may need to turn the loaf upside down and place it back in the oven for a few minutes.
Bara brith means ‘speckled bread’. There are many variations to be found in cookery books and on the web – this is mine (bearing in mind I’m a vegan!:))
This bread (any yeast-risen bread) can also be made using the ‘several short kneadings over a 30-45 minutes period’ detailed here.