Monday, October 12, 2015

Visit the Irish Halloween past with this recipe for Barmbrack

Halloween festivities are never complete without some traditional Irish treats to help you celebrate. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, homes are littered with the delicious treat known as barnbrack (Barmbrack (Irish: bairín breac), also called Barnbrack or often shortened to brack, is a yeasted bread with added sultanas and raisins), which is an Irish fruit loaf. The title comes from the Irish Gaelic 'bairín breac' which literally means 'speckled loaf.' In traditional Ireland, each member of the family would get a slice of the delicious cake. But you had to be careful when chewing the delicious treat, as there were several charms hidden inside wrapped in baking paper which signified omens for the finder's future.
Barmbrack is the center of an Irish Halloween custom. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring. Each item, 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.
Barmbrack recipe
3 cups dried fruit
1 1/4 cup cold tea
1 cup self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon mixed spice
3 cups caster sugar
Honey or Golden Syrup (optional – for decoration)
Soak the fruit in tea overnight, then drain. Mix together with the rest of the ingredients (apart from the honey/golden syrup) and stir in the charms. Don’t over knead the dough, or your delicately re-hydrated fruit will break up.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Allow to cool in the pan for 2 hours before removing. Continue to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Press the objects of choice into the cake through the bottom before serving.
Barmbrack is usually sold in flattened rounds, it is often served toasted with butter along with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The dough is sweeter than sandwich bread, but not as rich as cake, and the sultanas and raisins add flavour and texture to the final product.

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