Welsh bara brith teabread.

flag-mini-Wales Continuing on a culinary exploration of Wales through the pages of Best of Traditional Welsh Cooking ...
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While I am eager to try dishes like “
Anglesey eggs” and “Cockle cakes” (still trying to figure out where I can buy cockles in these parts), I’m sort of stuck in the “Breads, cakes & pancakes” section. I am hopelessly weak when it comes to flour-based food, especially yeast and grainy bread, and bready things like scones, cakes, and rolls.
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My first choice of bread is always a homemade bread sliced thickly, toasted and slathered with butter and preserves, or topped with ham and cheese. But I do love sweets! And this Welsh both bread and sweet.
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Bara (“bread”) brith (“speckled”) is a yeast-raised fruit bread, and bara brith teabread is its quick baking-powder counterpart. Full of tea-plumped raisins, currants and other dried fruits, it is speckled, indeed. The recipes I have for bara brith, and its Irish cousin brack (from the Gaelic “brec” for “speckled”), also call for candied peel, which has limited (read: NO) appeal in my house, so I leave it out.
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With just a little advanced prep the fruit needs to plump and soak up strongly brewed tea for a few hours or overnight this bread is easily mixed and baked. Most recipes call for raisins, sultanas and currants which. Since that amounts to three kinds of raisins, I like to throw in a bit more variety.
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In addition to raisins and currants, I used chopped apricots, craisins and orange-scented prunes. You could also add variety with flavored tea, such as peppery Earl Grey or bergamot-scented Lady Grey. I used Bigelow's Constant Comment, with its distinctive fragrance of orange and clove.
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My favorite part of this recipe comes from its description in the book: “It is meant to be sliced and buttered, but it also tastes good just as it is.” There ... it was meant to be buttered! I love butter, and will someday write an Ode to Butter. In my world it is a food group unto itself.
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Bara brith teabread wears a few generous smears of butter quite well, but is truly delicious as is moist, sweet, and you really can taste tea in the fruit. I also find that sweet breads (not sweetbreads!) are taste-tea topped with cold spreadable cream cheese. Remember those cans of Boston Brown Bread? We smothered rounds of it with cream cheese. And odd as it sounds, try topping bara brith with slices of mild cheddar or monterey jack. It goes, I promise.
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Once the bread is cooled you can slice and store it in a heavy duty resealable bag in the freezer. Then just pull off a few slices at a time and defrost on the counter, in a microwave or toaster oven. Serve up with nice hot tea. And don't forget the butter!
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Welsh Bara Brith
From "Best of Traditional Welsh Cooking"

1-1/3 cups mixed dried fruit (including chopped mixed candied peel, optional)
1 cup hot strong tea, strained
2 cups self-rising flour
OR 2 cups regular flour plus 1 Tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice, such as apple or pumpkin pie spice
2 Tablespoons butter, chilled
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

Put dried fruit into a heatproof bowl and pour hot tea over. Stir a few times, then cover and leave to stand at room temperature several hours or overnight. When you are ready to assemble batter, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large loaf pan and line it with baking parchment.

Sift the flour and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with fingertips, a pastry blender, or two knives until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, then add the fruit with its liquid, and the beaten egg. Stir well until very soft in consistency.

Spoon mixture into the prepared loaf pan and level the surface with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from pan and place on rack until completely cool. Slice, butter, eat. (I don't think you needed
me to tell you that.)
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Welsh Rabbit.

flag-mini-Wales I remember from my childhood the mysterious appearance of frozen Welsh Rarebit in our family’s freezer. I was so curious about this thing called “rarebit” apparently cheese melted on toast and yet I don’t remember my parents ever serving it. Who knows, maybe they were saving it all for themselves! There were 12 of us in total and food disappeared quickly. Perhaps it was a treat for them to savor together in the rare moment when no children were around.
Welsh Rabbit
Had they only known how easy and downright cheap Welsh rabbit can be, they might have served it up more often, especially on meatless Fridays that we sort of adopted as semi-practicing Catholics. (Those Fridays morphed into “Every Man for Himself” which meant “Mom Needs a Break from Cooking Oh For Heavens Sake You Won’t Starve Pour Yourself a Bowl of Cereal or Make Some Toast.”)
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Most books, articles, blogs and cooking sites I consulted seem to agree that caws pobi Welsh for “toasted/roasted cheese” (any Welshfolk out there are welcome to correct me on that) originated as rabbit not rarebit, one possible explanation being that Welshmen were too poor to afford even lowly rabbit meat so they frequently relied on cheese for tummy-filling sustenance. And if you mixed a little beer or stout with that cheese, well you probably earned it.
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I found no less than six recipes for rabbit/rarebit among my various cookbooks. Heck, even Better Homes & Gardens book has “Welsh Rarebit Breakfast” served a la Eggs Benedict atop english muffins and Canadian bacon and a “Beer Rarebit” variation served with bacon, in case the cheese and eggs didn’t help you meet the minimum daily requirement of fat and cholesterol.
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Recipes vary little from one to the next: usually butter, mustard, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, grated cheese and milk or beer. Some list eggs or yolks in the ingredients, but I took a pass on that. I just wanted cheese and beer! A few call for mixing the ingredients cold and spreading them on bread before toasting; most melt all ingredients in a saucepan first and then pour or spoon it over bread or toast. Enjoy the cheese covered bread/toast immediately or pop it under the broiler until brown and bubbly. Add a poached egg and it turns into Bucks Rabbit. A versatile dish, indeed!
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For me, really good quality and sturdy bread is a must for this one. Two of my top store-bought choices are Breadsmith’s Honey White and Rustic Italian. Thickly cut homemade bread would be heavenly! Multi-grain or wheaten bread would be excellent too. Is it okay to recommend Irish wheaten bread for a Welsh dish? 'Cuz McNamee's is tasty and would be outstanding with beer-spiked cheese on top.
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Heat the beer or milk in a saucepan with the butter, stir in the grated cheese (I used aged Wisconsin cheddar; some W. rabbit lovers around the internets recommend Welsh caerphilly cheese) until it melts, add the remaining seasonings and you have a savory sauce that is equally good for dipping chunks of bread into as it is for pouring over toast. If you can keep from slurping down spoonfuls of it before completing the rabbit roasting, I salute you! I couldn't.
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I hesitate to point out how cheap and easy this dish is, but there you go it’s cheap and easy. And most of you probably have all these ingredients on hand right now. For the record, I used Guinness Stout in the sauce and served it up on the side as well. Irish beer with Welsh rabbit on Italian bread, with Gala apples and Kosher garlic pickles. I'm getting weak.
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How many servings the recipe below yields is debatable. I could eat it all afternoon, so four slices of toasted Welsh rabbit for me technically equals one serving. But in a reasonable world, 1-2 slices should suffice per person. And can you see the opportunity for experimentation here? Try different cheeses or beer, Dijon or other mustards to alter the taste. Make it mild or spicy, use white or grainy bread. There may be more than one way to skin a rabbit, but in my cookbook it's much more appetizing to think of the many ways to make, and eat, Welsh Rabbit. So off I go.

Iyechid da!
(Yeh-chid dah = Cheers! in Welsh)

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Welsh Rabbit (say rarebit if you must)

3 Tablespoons beer (I opted for Guinness Stout use something really flavorful)
1 teaspoon powdered yellow mustard
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (more or less, to taste)
1-1/2 to 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
Dash cayenne pepper (optional)
4 slices bread

Whisk mustard powder into the beer. Pour into a small heavy saucepan, add the butter and Worcestershire sauce, and cook gently over medium heat until butter has melted.

Add cheese to hot beer and stir until melted, taking care not to let the mixture boil. Once smooth, taste and adjust seasonings; add cayenne if desired. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Lightly toast bread on both sides. Spoon or pour cheese sauce over toast and broil in a toaster oven or under flame just until bubbling and golden brown. Serve immediately.
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Have a heart.

With some strawberry ice cream.
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This I believe: that Valentine’s Day is not exclusively for lovers, and does not require champagne, slinky French lingerie or sparkly googaws from generic commercial jewelers. It is a day to tell family, friends, children, and even your pets how absolutely awesomely wonderful they are. Yes yes, you should be telling them on the other 364 days as well, but on Valentine’s Day you can do it with with foofy hearts, doilies, silly cards, little gifties and heart-shaped everything!
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I’ve always given my son Valentine’s Day cards (obviously not ones that say “You’re making me horny”), as well as my parents and my very best friend.
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Even if I didn’t have a lovin’ husband to get googly-eyed with on V-day, I’d still break out the heart-shaped chocolates and buy myself a bunch of tulips. Yes, I really wouldno matter what my relationship status, I've never neglected myself on Valentine's Day. And when I was single and childless, I put up a fresh, fully decorated Christmas tree in my little studio apartment every year. I declare that Christmas is not only for children, as Valentine’s Day is not strictly for lovers!
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I think I get why people go all anti-Valentine’s Day, but as a person who loves red and pink, lace, hearts, roses, chocolate, cupids, vintage Valentines, heart shaped cake pans/cookie cutters/candy/ornaments/boxes/earrings/picture frames/charms/baskets/dessert bowls etc., I refuse to miss out. And why should our kids miss out too? Instead of escaping from themas divorced-remarried people, we get more than enough time away from our kids when they’re with the other parentswe have a family Valentine’s dinner at home.
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This year it was nothing fancy (not like last year, with fillet mignon we scored on sale)just soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, candy conversation hearts scattered across the table, candles, and beautiful deep pink roses from my One and Only. The fancyness was dessert: Chocolate Glazed Chocolate Velvet Cake hearts topped with pink frosting carnations and roses and pink ice cream.
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The recipe for this almost-flourless chocolate cakewhich I clipped from Redbook magazine in 1985is easy, calls for only 5 ingredients, and requires the most basic prep and cooking methods. Any lovestruck fool can pull this off.
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Instead of a single round layer called for in the recipe, I used an 8x8 square pan and cut large and small hearts from the cooked cooled cake. Then clumsily glazed and decorated them. I mean, the flowers look decent but I could have done better on that glaze! Thank goodness no one cares.
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The glaze is also easy and can be poured or spread over the hearts. Okay yeah, it’s a little fussy but it’s easy fussy, I promise. And those little flowers? Also easy, with a can (one can't always Martha-Stewart-from-scratch their way through these things) of Betty Crocker Cupcake Icing in Petal Pink using the star shaped tip.
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Give it a small squoosh for a pert little carnation, and swirl it around a few times in a gently widening circle for a rose. Here’s a mouthwatering tutorial for these easy roses. Stop squirming, they’re easy I tell you! Just practice a few times on wax paper. If you don’t want roses, squoosh whatever you like on top.
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When it was time for dessert, we scooped Breyer’s strawberry ice cream into bowls and plopped a heart on top. And ate. And wished each other a happy Valentine’s Day while we lapped up two hours of Downton Abbey.
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Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!


Chocolate Velvet Cake
from Baker's

1 package (4-oz.) Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate*, broken in pieces
6 Tablespoons butter or margarine
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs, separated
4 Tablespoons sugar
Chocolate Glaze (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan or an 8x8 square pan. Melt chocolate and butter in medium saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in flour. Blend in egg yolks, one at a time.

In a medium sized bowl, beat egg whites with hand mixer on medium-high speed until foamy throughout. Gradually beat in sugar; continue beating until soft peaks form. Gently fold chocolate mixture into egg whites, blending thoroughly.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes (cake will settle slightly). Finish cooling upside down on rack. Spread top and sides with Chocolate Glaze. OR cut into hearts with cookie cutters, then glaze. Top with frosting flowers.

At room temperature, the cake is velvety, indeed. When refrigerated, the frosted cake turns fudgy but still somewhat light and velvety. I would be hard-pressed to decide which way I like it best.

*I used regular ol' Baker's Semi-Sweet chocolate, since I had it on hand already.

Chocolate Glaze

1 package (4-oz.) Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, broken in pieces
3 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons butter

Melt chocolate and water in medium saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted. Pour gently over cooled cake, or cool to thicken and spread onto cake.

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