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.
Comments

Little Welsh cakes.

flag-mini-Wales Quick ... name a Welsh dish.
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Wait, did you really just think Tom Jones?? Well okay, T.J. might be dishy to some, but I expected you to think something like "Welsh rarebit" which is, in fact, an actual Welsh dish -- the kind you eat, not toss your knickers at -- only it's "rabbit" not "rarebit" and it doesn't have any rabbit in it, just cheese and mustard and sometimes beer.
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Welsh rabbit (which I grew up calling "rarebit") was the only Welsh dish I ever knew about until I bought my first book of Welsh cooking and discovered pretty little Welsh cakes.
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Welsh cakes -- called "picau ar y maen in the mother tongue -- look like pancakes, and are like a cross between scones and shortbread, slightly sweet, studded with petite currants, and cooked on a griddle or a bakestone. (or a "girdle" as they used to say)
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And boy are they Welsh! It seems like they are a Welsh national culinary treasure, and you can’t visit Wales without sampling Welsh cakes.
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These sweet cakes combine simple, inexpensive ingredients -- butter, flour, sugar, currants, spices, egg -- and an unfussy cooking method into tasty little treats.
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They couldn’t be simpler to mix up, roll out, shape and cook with just a little oil, butter or a spritz of cooking spray. Ideally, they are cooked on a well-seasoned cast iron Welsh bakestone, but those are hard to come by in these parts so a griddle or non-stick frying pan will do.
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The cakes cook quickly and disappear before you know it, leaving delightful sugar dust on your fingertips. They would benefit by a little cinnamon or nutmeg in the dough, and perhaps mixed in with the sugar before sprinkling it on the cooked cakes. Otherwise they are perfect with a cup or tea or coffee and best eaten warm off the griddle. They freeze well and reheat nicely if wrapped in foil and popped into the oven or toaster oven.
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Watch this charming video of someone's Grandma Betty making Welsh cakes. Betty reminds me very much of my own mom, although mom's ancestry was Irish. If you listen closely, you might catch Betty saying her bakestone is over 100 years old!
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A real bakestone would be a fun addition to my kitchen tools, along with a Scottish spurtle for making oatmeal. But alas, they are not readily available over here, are heavy and therefore expensive to ship. I was going to ask Santa to send me a bakestone for Christmas, but I think it would seriously weigh down his sleigh, even with his superhuman strength and reindeer power. Someday we'll visit the motherland and bring one home with us.
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I wonder if my Welsh ancestors enjoyed Welsh cakes? They must have. I shipped a few to my dad, whose grandfather David Evans emigrated from Wales to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ran a general store there for many years.
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Dad loved the cakes, and he has Wales in his blood so he must have an innate taste for good Welsh cooking. Here's hoping great grandfather Evans would like them too.
David-Evans-1
David Evans, age 20, 1872.

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Welsh Cakes
From "The Best of Traditional Welsh Cooking" by Annette Yeats

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, diced
1/2 cup caster or superfine sugar
1/2 cup currants
1 egg
3 Tablespoons milk
superfine (or caster) sugar, for dusting

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, you could process the ingredients in a food processor.) Stir in the superfine sugar and the currants.

Lightly beat the egg, then stir it into the flour mixture along with enough of the milk to make a ball of soft dough.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1/4" thick. Cut out rounds with a 2-1/2" to 3" cutter. Gather up the remnants and re-roll to make more cakes.

Heat a heavy frying pan or griddle over low to medium heat. Melt some butter on the hot pan, or grease with cooking oil or cooking spray. Place cakes on hot greased pan and cook in small batches for about 4-5 minutes each side or until they are slightly risen, golden brown and cooked through.

Transfer cooked cakes to a wire rack, dust with superfine sugar on both sides and leave to cool. Then enjoy with a pot of good tea, your favorite coffee, a tall glass of cold milk, or whatever strikes your fancy. Iechyd da!*

Variations: Add 1/2 teaspoon or more of mixed spices, such as cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, allspice. Also, you can add 1/2 teaspoon or more of vanilla extract into the egg before mixing it with the flour mixture.

*(Yeh-chid dah = Cheers! in Welsh)


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