Irish Barmbrack (Bairín Breac) – the perfect Halloween teacake
It doesn’t happen that often that someone writes about me, but when Savour described me, I was truly over the moon: “It’s rather interesting to witness a passion for everything Irish when so many Irish people tend to face outwardly when searching for foodie inspiration. This is beginning to shift as more people discover the wonders of Irish food (and Irish produce) but for now, we can thank Tine for providing us with this fantastic recipe for Boxty (Traditional Irish Potato Cakes). Tine really knows how to make a tummy grumble and a heart swell with patriotic pride!”
It’s no secret that I have a deep love for Ireland and its language, culture, nature and people. These are some of the reasons why I left Belgium as well. Although many people might think there isn’t much to discover in Ireland, when it comes to food, I’m still discovering more and more each day!
As today is Halloween I decided to make an old Irish Halloween tradition: Barmbrack (Bairín Breac)! It’s a moist teacake with loads of dried fruit inside. The fruit gives it a very sweet flavour but it’s also packed with great spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
“Barmbrack is the centre 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 carries a meaning to the person who finds it in their slice. The pea, the person would not marry that year. The stick meant they would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes. Those who found the cloth or rag would have bad luck or be poor. The coin meant would enjoy good fortune or be rich. And the ring symbolised you would be wed within the year. Other articles added to the brack include a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolise going into the priesthood or to the Nuns. Although this tradition is not widely continued in the present day.”
There are quite a lot of different recipes out there, some using baking powder and plain flour, others self-raising, some use caster sugar, brown or light brown sugar, a splash of whiskey, .. I went for a combination of brown and white sugar and self-raising flour. You can use light brown sugar or only brown or white. The same quantities apply so you can change it up to your own liking as long as you use 125g of sugar. I also made my own “Mixed Spice”. I described my mix below, just remember to only use one teaspoon.
Now let’s get cooking and make sure to hide a ring in there to keep the tradition alive! One last thing to keep in mind though. You need to soak the fruit overnight so make sure to prepare the ingredients the day before.
|2 Irish Breakfast tea bags|
|750ml freshly boiled water|
|275g dried fruit mix|
|55g brown sugar|
|50g white sugar|
|1 large egg|
|225g self-raising flour|
|1tsp mixed spice To make your own Mixed Spice: 1 tablespoon ground allspice (I used whole allspice, crushed them first with a mortar and then blended them), 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cloves|
|Icing sugar to dust, a ring, a splash of whiskey|