Barm Brack is a fruit-full Irish bread traditionally used to tell fortunes at Halloween. Different items are baked into the bread; the person who gets the pea will not marry, the person who gets the stick will have an unhappy marriage, the person who gets a piece of cloth will live a life of poverty, the person who gets a coin will have a future of riches, while the person who gets the ring will marry within the next year.
Sounds like a fun old tradition, that is if you are lucky enough to get the coin or possibly the ring. The other options being too depressing for me, I just added fruit to my version!
Some barm brack recipes use baking soda as a leavening agent, but since the word barm is supposedly Gaelic for yeast, this bread lends itself nicely to sourdough. Caution – there is a lot of fruit in this bread. So while the end result is a deliciously sweet-tart tea bread, you may have a little bit of trouble kneading all the raisins into the dough.
- 2 cups strong black tea
- 2 cups dried fruit (I used a combination of raisins and currents)
- 2 cups sourdough starter (find out how to make your own starter here)
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup softened butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup milk
Place the tea and the fruit in a bowl and let soak overnight. Drain.
In a large bowl, or the bowl to a stand mixer, combine all remaining ingredients. Stir to bring the dough together and knead until the dough is smooth but still a little sticky.
Knead the fruit into the dough. This process may be easier if you lightly sprinkle the fruit with flour before kneading. I had to do this step by hand, even though I was using a stand mixer.
Place the dough in a greased, 8 inch baking dish. Cover and let rise in a warm place 2 – 4 hours. Since there is so much fruit, the dough will not rise as much as a “fruit-less” dough would rise.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until the top is nicely browned (internal temperature about 205 degrees). Cool on a rack.
Like many sourdough breads, barm brack is even better the next day. Serve thin slices toasted with butter and marmalade, along with a cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Happy Halloween!
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