Barmbrack is a bread made with dried fruit that has been soaked in hot tea. It is traditionally served at Halloween in Ireland, but also makes for an excellent tea time treat, especially when tasted and generously slathered with butter! The Irish also call it Báirín Breac or “Speckled Bread”. Speckled because of the rains in the bread and that name comes from the Irish words “báirín” for loaf and “breac” for speckled.
The origin of Halloween goes back to the Celtic festival of "Samhain" which is derived from Old Irish and supposedly roughly translates to "Summer's End." The Barmbrack is very much a part of a traditional Irish Halloween custom that involved baking various objects or “fortunes” into the fruit bread. When the bread was cut and served, if you found one of the objects in your portion then that would tell your fortune.
There are yeasted versions of this recipe as well those that use baking powder to leaven it. I am making the yeasted version. The portions given here make 2 loaves. If you want to make one then reduce the quantity by half.
All purpose flour .. 4 cups
Raisins ............. 1/4 cup
Sultanas ........... 1/4 cup
Chopped apricots ... 1/8 cup
Dried cranberries ... 1/8 cup ( I could not get them so I added a few chopped cherries instead)
Hot black tea ...... 1 and 1/2 cups
Instant dry yeast ... 2 tsps
Sugar ................. 2/3 cup
Ground cinnamon .... 1/2 tsp
All spice .................. 1/4 tsp
Ground ginger ........ 1/2 tsp
Salt ....................... 1/4 tsp
Butter .................. 30 gms (room temperature)
Egg .................. 1 (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 cup warm milk for 1 cup of "milk + tea" mixture* (see below in the method) 1 tbsp caster Sugar or honey + 1 tbsp boiling water mixed to glaze the top of the bread (optional)
Put the dried fruits in a bowl. Cover them with hot black tea and leave them for few hours or preferably overnight.
Drain the liquid and reserve it for using later. Set the fruit aside.
Collect all the ingredients at room temperature.
Take 1/4 cup warm water and add sugar. Sprinkle yeast and allow it to become frothy by leaving it in a warm place.
Take the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the spice powders, salt, sugar and butter. (I skipped egg.)
Knead this by adding the yeast and the milk and the strained tea set aside earlier. (add as much as needed little by little )
Take the dough on a floured surface and knead it well for 2 minutes.
Flatten the dough with your palm or a rolling pin.
Dust the soaked and drained fruits with a spoonful of flour. This helps in kneading as the moisture is absorbed by the dry flour.
Spread them on the flattened dough.
Fold it into two and spread the remaining fruits. Also add any trinkets if you like at this stage.
Fold it again and shape it into a nice round ball.
Place it in a greased bowl. Cover and let it rest in a warm place
Gently remove the risen dough and knead it lightly to remove air bubbles.
Put it in a greased loaf tin or a round tin and allow it to rise again. ( about 1 hour )
Bake it at 180 C (350 F) for about 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown on top. The time and temperature may vary a little according to the type and size of oven used. Check it out. Cover the bread with a foil if it is browning faster.
About 5 minutes before finally taking the breads out of the oven, brush the tops of them with the sugar glaze (if using) and return to the oven for 3 to 4 minutes for a sticky and shiny finish.
Cool the bread on a wire rack before slicing it.
This recipe makes 2 medium loaves or rounds.
We Knead to Bake # 32 - # My Diverse Kitchen