Irish Barm Brack

As a tribute to upcoming St. Patrick's Day, I wanted to make an authentic Irish baked treat. After some research and contemplation I decided upon Barm Brack.

What is Barm Brack?  It is a dense yeast-bread filled with raisins and currants, spiced with mixed spice and cinnamon and then baked up either as a traditional loaf or in a round cake pan.

The history of Barm Brack  (meaning speckled loaf) actually revolves around Halloween.  As per Wiki and other sites, the Halloween version of Barm Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune telling game.  There would be a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring all wrapped up individually in bits of greaseproof paper. Each object, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be wed within the year. Other articles added to the brack include a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolize going into the priesthood or joining a convent.

For me, it is just a lovely way to enjoy a sweet yeast bread with a cuppa tea ! I will pass on the convent option. But coins are most welcome.

As some of you know, I have lost all fear of bread making since becoming the owner of a KitchenAid mixer with that glorious dough hook attachment. No manual kneading means a lot more fresh bread around this house!

So true to form, I made the barm brack dough in my stand mixer; kneaded it for 4 minutes with the  dough hook then manually kneaded in the raisins.  The manual kneading was no biggie either. The raisins blend it quite easily.

As far as raisins go, opt for sultanas. Though the original recipe calls for both sultanas and currants, I only used sultanas because currants could not be found. If your sultanas are plump and not dry, don't bother soaking them prior to adding them to the dough. This will avoid any chance of excess liquid affecting the dough consistency.

This dough does not rise high at all so don't be alarmed.  Let it rise 1 hr in each phase and you will be fine.  Though you can bake this in a loaf pan I would advise not to do so but stick with a greased 8" springform pan instead.  It just bakes up better in my opinion and also holds the shape commonly seen with this type of bread.

What I love most about this bread is its richness.  It is sweet, dense and absolutely perfect toasted and topped with butter.  I will make this all year round - guaranteed.



So if you are ready, let's get baking!

RECIPE:
*adapted source recipe - Barm Brack, The Great British Book of Baking

WHAT YOU NEED

LOAF
225g sultanas  (soaked in hot water for 25 minutes if not plump)
450g white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice (or Pumpkin Pie Spice)
75g cold butter, diced
75g light brown sugar
1 7gsachet of easy-bake yeast (fast acting)
125 ml lukewarm water
2 large eggs at room temperature

GLAZE
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water

MAKE IT

GREASE 8" Springform Pan

IN BOWL OF STAND MIXER, fitted with dough hook,  stir together flour, salt, cinnamon and mixed spice
WITH YOUR FINGERTIPS, blend in diced butter so mixture resembles fine crumbs
STIR in yeast and sugar
IN SMALL BOWL, whisk together milk and eggs
GRADUALLY STIR milk mixture into dry ingredients
TURN UP mixture to #2 speed and knead for 4 minutes
THOROUGHLY DRAIN raisins
TRANSFER dough to a floured surface and gently knead in raisins
TRANSFER back to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and let rise 1 hr
IF NEEDED, punch down dough, shape into a circle and transfer to prepared pan
COVER again with tea towel and let rise 1 more hour
ABOUT 20 minutes before last rise time finishes, preheat oven to 200C
BAKE bread in oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped
NOTE:  Check bread at halfway point and cover with foil if browning too quickly

DISSOLVE SUGAR into boiling water
REMOVE fully baked bread from oven
BRUSH sugar glaze over top of bread
PLACE bread back in the oven for 2 minutes
REMOVE BREAD and place pan on cooling rack
LET bread cool for 10 minutes before removing sides of cake pan
EAT warm or at room temperature.  Best toasted !!




6 comments:

  1. june in irelandMarch 12, 2012

    Mmmmm....barm brack! I love, love, love barm brack. You're right - well done on the research - it is a traditional treat around Samhain / Hallowe'en time here in Ireland, yes. I love that while it's a bit sweet, it's not overly super sweet. It's dense, but not overly dense to where it sits in your tummy for hours after. Even a small slice is a joy (but then, it's difficult for most of us to have just a small slice of any sort of baked good...at least, for me it is, LOL). And oh yes - toasted! It is absolute heaven when it's toasted.

    Thanks, Linda, for sharing this in honour and celebration of something that actually is Irish, rather than a quite offensive and disrespectful and insensitively named alcholic beverage that I've read about in other blogs (who shall remain nameless - they know who they are) that's supposedly meant to 'celebrate' St. Patrick's Day and all things Irish on the day. If you know the drink I'm referring to, you'll understnd why I won't mention its ugly name.

    Thanks for this, once again - it's Irish, it's enjoyed and loved by Irish people everywhere, and even if it's usually baked or eaten in the autumn, there ain't no rule that says it can't be enjoyed in the springtime, for Paddy's Day, or any other time throughout the year - YUM!

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  2. This looks and sounds delicious. I found your post on Mix it up Monday, and am a new follower. Patsy

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    1. Welcome, Pasty! So glad you found Lemon Drop and I am thrilled you are the latest follower :)

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  3. This looks delicious! Thanks so much for sharing at Mix it up Monday! I hope you'll stop back soon :)

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Thank you for your comments!

Linda @ Lemon Drop