Barmbrack (sometimes called Bairin Brack), a rich Irish fruit bread, is the food most associated with ancient Halloween customs. The “charms” baked into each loaf would fortell the future of the recipiant. Placed in the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth and a ring. Whovever received in their slice the pea, would be unmarried; the stick, would be a fighter (or wife beater!); the cloth or rag, would be poor; and the ring, would be wed within the year. Barmbrack is similar in style, though denser, to the Italian Pannettone. The word barm comes from an old English word, beorma, meaning yeasty fermented liquor. Brack comes from the Irish word brac, meaning speckled – which, of course, it is, with dried fruit and candied peel. Barmbrack is usually baked in a round (20 cm or 8″) cake tin with a loose base, but this recipe works just as well with a rectangular loaf tin. The quantities given here will make one large loaf. 2 tea bags, or 3 tsp. loose tea (a strong black blend works best) 3½ cups (12 oz, 350 g) mixed dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins/sultanas, currants, candied peel) 1 cup (8 fl oz, 240 ml) milk 1 tsp. sugar 2 tsp. dried active yeast (not instant yeast) 3 cups (1 lb, 450 g) strong bread flour 1 tsp. salt ¼ cup (1 oz, 25 g) brown sugar 1/3 cup (3 oz, 75 g) butter or margarine 1 beaten egg 1 tsp. mixed
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