This is a very old recipe the original of which my mother still has, written out in my childhood handwriting. I was probably about eight, or so – I seem to remember that it came from the Girl Guides, but I might be wrong! It is called a Tea Bread: both made with tea and eaten for tea. Bran Brack is also sometimes known as Bara Brith or Barm Brack – and before you ask, I know that bran is not listed below. (I haven’t missed an ingredient from the original recipe when I typed it in!)
It is really important not to omit the soaking in tea, preferably overnight: essential for re-hydrating and plumping up the dried fruit. Providing you have thought ahead and done this Bran Brack is a simple and quick cake to make and is very moist with a high proportion of dried mixed fruit. The quantity of fruit could be reduced but it is this generous amount that makes Bran Brack so delicious. The tea needs to be fairly strong: strain off tea left over in the teapot until there is enough to make a cake! I use a standard, everyday tea: we drink Sainsbury’s Red Label (preferably the loose version) which is Fairly Traded. (Substituting speciality teas could give a different flavour, but I have not experimented with this alternative.) Butcher, Baker has a recipe for Bara Brith including about 2tbsp marmalade, which sounds good, but have not tried it. A teaspoon of mixed spice could also be added for flavour. It is worth doubling the quantity to make a larger cake, or perhaps two cakes. Bran Brack keeps fairly well but once made it gets eaten very quickly. Bran Brack is a fat free cake/tea loaf. It is, however, delicious spread with butter, especially if eaten fresh and slightly warm. Please note that the original quantities were written as Imperial measurements and the metric is as close as I can get.
Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread
(makes 1 x aprox 2lb loaf)
12ozs/375g Mixed Dried Fruit
8fl ozs/225ml strong cold tea
4ozs/115g soft dark brown sugar
8ozs/225g Self Raising flour
1. Soak the fruit and sugar in the cold tea, preferably overnight.
2. Pre-heat oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3
3. Line a 2lb loaf tin.
4. Mix the egg and the flour with the ingredients that have been soaking overnight.
5. Pour into the prepared tin.
6. Bake for around 55 mins – 1 hour and turn out when cool. Cool on wire tray.
Mocha Fruit & Nut Cake
(a variation on Bran Brack using coffee and chocolate chips)