We had some lovely fruit bread from the village bakery in Combe Martin whilst we were away on holiday, so to cheer us up, now we are back to the day to day routine, I thought I’d make some for our weekend breakfast. This recipe for a yeasted fruit bread called Barabrith (a traditional Welsh fruit bread which seems to come in lots of different versions… here’s another, totally different, version) is based on one I’ve found in a recent vintage cookbook purchase.
This book – The Cheshire Cookery Book (from the Women’s Institute & published originally in 1935) – has some really excellent recipes and these lovely lino-cut illustrations throughout the text. Like a lot of older recipe books it’s a bit difficult to get your head round at times because it assumes an awful lot of pre-existing knowledge… For instance, this bread recipe requires you to bake the bread in a ‘fairly quick oven’.. hmmm!
This recipe makes a very rich fruited bread, with a dense chewy texture. Bear in mind that because the dough is so rich, the yeast has to work really hard, so don’t try and rush the rising stages – and if you can find a nice warm place for the dough to rise in, all the better.
200g whole milk
7g (1 packet) fast action yeast
500g strong bread flour (whatever combination of white or brown you prefer, I used half and half)
50g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
a little honey to glaze
- Warm the milk in a small pan to around blood heat, then take it off the heat, and add the butter, which will melt whilst you get on with the rest of the weighing.
- Weigh the yeast, flour, salt & sugar into a large bowl or mixer bowl.
- Pour in the combined milk and butter, and the egg.
- Use your mixer or your hands to bring together the dough. It needs to be nice and soft – do add a touch more milk (you don’t need to warm it) if the dough feels a bit dry and crumbly. If you have used wholemeal flour you will almost certainly need a bit more milk.
- Add the dried fruit and mix again to spread the fruit through the dough.
- Cover your bowl with a damp cloth and leave the dough to rise until doubled in size. Allow a couple of hours for this, although it’s worth checking after an hour, just in case the gods of baking are on your side..
- After the first rise, line a 2lb (900g) loaf tin with baking parchment and then tip the dough into the tin. Wet your hands and press the dough into the tin, making sure it goes into the corners, and creating a slightly domed top. Try and push any bits of dried fruit on the top of the loaf down into the dough, so that they don’t burn in the oven.
- Put the tin in a large polythene bag and leave in a warm place, until the loaf is nicely risen. Allow up to an hour for this, but it can take as little as 30 minutes. Don’t rush it!
- Towards the end of the 2nd rising time preheat oven to 175C (fan), 180C, Gas Mark 4.
- Bake the loaf, on the middle shelf, for around 30-40 minutes – it will be a bit more brown than normal on top, because of the high quantity of sugar in the dough. Don’t worry about this. To check the loaf is done, tap the bottom of the tin – it will sound hollow if the bread is cooked through.
- Remove the loaf from the tin and brush the top of the loaf with honey whilst it is still warm.
Eat and enjoy – needless to say this is delicious toasted.