Oktoberfest in Germany begins Saturday, September 22, 2012, and ends Sunday, October 7, 2012...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Barmbrack Bread ~~ a traditional Irish Halloween treat

Barmbrack is the center of an Irish “All-Hallows-Eve” custom, and traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread as a sort of fortune-telling game.  In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a thimble, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring.  If you want to add these items to your bread, you could bundle them in a piece of parchment paper and hide it in the loaf, or include them helter-skelter ~~ I am just in it for the delicious bread and do not add the trinkets.    Anyway, here is some more lore ~~ The word “barm“ comes from an old English word beorma, which means yeasted fermented liquor.   This was used to raise the cake or bread and is now replaced by yeast.  “Brack” comes from the Irish word brac, meaning speckled – which is exactly what this bread is, with dried fruit. 

This recipe is inspired by my favorite Irish teacher/chef, Darina Allen, and is included in her “Irish Traditional Cooking” cookbook.   I tweaked the recipe a bit.  The following is my adaptation.


3 ½ cups bread flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup super fine granulated sugar plus 1 extra teaspoon for the yeast sponge
1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
3 Tablespoons softened butter
1 cup tepid milk (divided)
1 egg – whisked
¾  cup dried currants
½ cup dried cherries

To glaze:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water or milk


First, add ½ cup of milk to a 1 cup container.   Set in microwave for 15 seconds.   Then add 1 teaspoon sugar to the warmed milk and stir.   Test the temp – if it is just tepid (or lukewarm) sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir with a plastic spoon.  Set the container in a warm place to rest for about 10 minutes.   I usually use the interior of my microwave oven as the temperature remains constant.

Then, to the bowl of a food processor add the flour, the spices, ½ cup sugar and salt.   Run on low for a few seconds to evenly distribute the spices and aerate the flour.

Now, top the flour mixture with the other ½ cup of milk, softened butter, whisked egg, and the yeast mixture.   Run on low until a dough ball forms – about a minute.

Then, to a lightly floured work surface place the dough ball and spread it out, then top it with the dried fruit.  

Now, knead the dried fruit into the dough.   When the fruit is evenly distributed, shape dough into a ball.

Place the dough ball into an oiled bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap.

Place the covered bowl in a warm place to rest and rise.   I use the interior of my microwave oven for this.   

When the dough has doubled in size (usually takes an hour or so) punch it down. Then, knead well for two or three minutes, and divide it into two equal portions.  

Place each portion into a greased or lined 7-inch loaf pan.  If you have lined the loaf pans, as I do, fold the flaps over the top of the dough and then roll over it with a small roller.   This will help give the dough portions a nice shape for the loaf pan and the dough will raise evenly.   Allow the dough to raise again in the pans – for about an hour.

About 15 minutes before you are set to bake, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Place loaves in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden and fully cooked.

As soon as you remove the loaves, dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in 2 tablespoons of warm milk and brush this mixture over the loaves to glaze them.   Put them back into the oven for about 2 minutes.  

Then, remove and place the loaves on a wire rack to cool.   In about 5 minutes remove the bread from the pans and continue to cool them on the wire rack.

When cool, serve thick cut slices with butter.

Enjoy !!

If you receive any of the following trinkets in your slice of Barmbrack it will mean this for you…..
Pea = you will know poverty
Ring =  you shall marry
Stick =  your marriage will be unhappy  (your husband will beat you)
Thimble = you will be a spinster
Cloth = bad luck or poverty
Coin = you will have wealth
Hey, I didn't write the trinket rules :)
 Link for the cookbook:   Irish Traditional Cooking

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