My sister and I decided to get together for a little tea party and viewing of the series finale of Downton Abbey. (I will miss that show.) I thought this would be a good opportunity to use my mom’s bread machine to make a quick bread, and a spread. (Her machine has both of those settings.)
The Welsh Bara Brith is very similar to what we in America think of as a fruitcake, however, the dried fruit is soaked in Earl Grey Tea instead of liquor. I deviated from the recipe a bit, I will mark deviations with parentheses.
The night before I was going to make the bread, I boiled 1 1/4 cups of water and poured that into a 4 cup glass measuring cup. To the water, I added 2 Earl Grey tea bags and let that steep for 10 minutes. I then removed the tea bags, squeezing them to release all the tea. To the tea, I added 4 oz of chopped dried apricots, 2 oz of dried cranberries and 2 oz of chopped dried figs. I allowed that to come to room temperature, and then put it in the refrigerator overnight. (The recipe called for 8 oz of chopped dried fruit, so I used what I had on hand. The recipe also says to let the fruit soak for 1 to 4 hours.)
In the morning, I added the following to the bread machine pan:
The tea-soaked fruit, with liquid
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, melted (the recipe says that the butter can be melted, or at room temperature)
3 tablespoons of apricot preserves (The recipe calls for your choice of apricot preserves, orange marmalade or ginger marmalade)
1 cup light brown sugar
2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup dark raisins (recipe says dark or golden)
1/2 cup candied cherries (Here was a big deviation, the recipe said candied orange peel, I used what I had on hand)
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons apple pie spice
3/4 teaspoon salt
The recipe says to used the Quick Bread/Cake cycle on the machine and then, when the timer goes off, use the bake only cycle for another 20 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch, it shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (20 extra minutes was no where near long enough, I kept adding time, in 20 minute increments until the loaf was done. All total, I think I may have added another hour or more.)
Once the loaf was done, I removed it, still in the pan, to a rack to cook for 1o minutes. After that, I removed it, right side up, to the rack to cool completely, then I sliced it and stored the slices in the refrigerator until teatime.
After cleaning the pan, I started my Pumpkin Apple Butter. According to the cookbook, this recipe is adapted for the bread machine from a Libby’s recipe.
Into the bread machine pan, I placed:
15 oz of pumpkin puree
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and grated
1/2 cup unsweetened, unfiltered apple juice
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
I set the machine for the Jam cycle and let it go. When the cycle completed, I removed the pan and stirred in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. I waited until the mixture was cool before transferring it to small containers to freeze. You can also store this in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
The bread was dense, moist, and totally delicious. Not being a fan of fruitcake, I was a little worried that I would not like this, but the tea made all the difference.
The pumpkin apple butter was great also, but not really needed with the bread. It was better with plain English Muffins or over biscuits. The cookbook recommends serving the bread spread with butter, and I think that may be the best way to appreciate all the great flavors in it. Since I can’t eat a lot of dried fruit, I sent the leftovers with Becky and she took them to work to get more opinions. I also gave her the leftover Apricot Preserves, so she offered that with it as well.
Here is what our taste testers at Steamboat Animal Hospital had to say,
“Favorite so far”
“I love the tea soaked fruit.You can really taste the tea. I tried it w/marmalade and without. . . both ways are delicious. I love the consistency of the bread and the mix of flavors are each distinct, but go together very well. Two thumbs up.”
“So Good! Would have never thought of soaking the fruit in tea for baking – genius! How can I get my hands on a whole loaf?”
“Dank” (I totally had to use the urban dictionary online to define that one. . . an expression frequently used by stoners and hippies for something of high quality.) LOL
All in all, this one is a keeper, and will possibly show up again around the holidays.
Not sure if this would be good enough to serve the Grantham Family upstairs, but I am sure the staff downstairs would approve. (Well, maybe not Mr. Carson.)