MTPR

Recipe: Welsh Tea Bread

Dec 14, 2016

Food Guy Greg Patent recalls:

"While I was hunting for immigrant bakers for my cookbook, “A Baker’s Odyssey,” I asked my Welsh friend and fellow Missoulian, Tottie Parmeter, if she might have a recipe she’d like to contribute.  She said she’d be delighted to show me how to make it, so here it is.

The texture of this Welsh bread is quite amazing, being both dense and light at the same time. For best results, make Bara Brith a day ahead.  The resting time makes it easy to cut the bread into thin slices with a serrated knife.  Serve with lots of butter and steaming cups of tea."

Bara Brith

You don’t need a machine to make this bread. A large bowl and wooden spoon are as technical as it gets.

Sponge

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces; dip dry measure into flour container, fill to overflowing, and sweep off excess with a straight edge)

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid-rise yeast

Dough

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces; measure as above), plus more if needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup diced candied orange peel

3/4 cup currants

1. To make the sponge.  Heat the milk in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat until the milk is scalded.  You’ll see steam rising from the surface and tiny bubbles all around the edges.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter, and stir until the butter has melted.  Cool to a temperature of 125 to 130 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.  Add the liquid and beat with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.  Scrape the spoon and sides of the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise in a warm place (85 to 90 degrees) until it has almost tripled in volume, about 2 hours.

2. To make the dough.  Add the egg to the sponge and beat it in well with a wooden spoon.  In a medium size bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups of flour and the spices.  Stir the fruits into the sponge.  Add about half the dry ingredients and stir them in to to make a thick, wet dough.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and incorporate them in as best you can.  The dough will be very shaggy looking.  Scrape the contents of the bowl onto your work surface and knead to incorporate all of the flour and spices into the dough.  At first the dough will be quite sticky, but keep pushing it and folding it on itself for 1 to 2 minutes with short, brief kneading motions, and it will become smooth, slightly shiny, and lose its stickiness.  If you hold onto the dough too long it will be sticky.  Try not to add any more flour, but if the dough still seems too wet to you, work in just a tablespoon or so more flour.

3. Butter or coat with cooking spray an 8-cup loaf pan, such as a 9 x 5 x 3-inch pan or a 10 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch pan.  Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in the prepared pan. if a few pieces of fruit poke through the dough here and there, just push them into the loaf so that the dough covers them.  Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and set the pan in a warm place until the center of the loaf domes up 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the pan rim, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. About a half hour before baking, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Uncover the loaf and place in the oven. After the first 30 minutes, lay a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side up, loosely over the loaf. The foil prevents the load from over-browning. Bake until the Bara Brith is well browned and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. As a double check on doneness, a digital probe thermometer inserted to the loaf’s center should register 195 to 200 degrees.  Cool the loaf in its pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Remove the loaf from the pan and set it upright on the rack to cool completely, 4 to 5 hours at least. Wrap in plastic and store overnight before serving. Cut into thinnish slices with a serrated knife.  Be sure to serve with butter.

5. Storage.  Wrap any leftover Bara Brith in a resealable plastic bag and store it at room temperature for up to 1 week.  The uncut loaf also freezes beautifully.  Seal it in a heavy-duty plastic bag and freeze for up to 1 month.  To serve, thaw completely in its bag before unwrapping and slicing.

Makes 1 loaf.

See more details on bara brith at: http://missoulian.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/greg-patent-welsh-tea-bread/article_19729936-5dbf-5f29-8474-38bcecb90588.html

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 12/11/16 and 12/15/16. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays and again at 4:54 p.m. Thursdays, or via podcast.)