Monday, October 5, 2009

Barmbrack - Irish Halloween Bread - Blue Monday



The landmark Campanile, Trinity College Dublin. The college, established in 1592, is home to scholars and men of letters some famous, some forgotten. Among the blessed are Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. Trinity College has a deservedly proud heritage. While it's not well known, the Irish, including some matriculating at Trinity, revel in the celebration of Somhain, a Halloween festival that includes a parade and boisterous bonhomie to mark the end of summer and All Saint's Eve. All holidays have special trappings and this one is no exception. The zealous celebrate with costumes and special food. Some of the foods associated with the Somhain are colcannon, a potato dish, and barmbrack, a confection sweeter than a bread but less rich than cake.





Both Van Morrison and James Joyce mention barmbrack, a yeasted sweet bread that's traditionally served on Halloween in Ireland. The Irish sometimes called it Báirín (top) Breac (dirty or speckled). Years ago the yeast to raise the bread dough was skimmed from the top of a vat of fermenting beer, the Bairin. The dried fruit was the Breac. It is the custom in Ireland to place trinkets into the bread dough. The charms determine if luck in the coming year will be good or bad. If a pea is found, the finder will not marry. If a coin is found, good fortune and wealth can be anticipated. A small stick indicates a bad or violent marriage, a piece of cloth poverty and a ring an impending marriage. Some cakes contain all these objects and fate is determined by what's in the slice of cake you receive. For the superstitious it's not unlike a crap shoot. Like many women, I seed my bread in such a way that only good luck is bestowed on any who are at my table. The bread is not difficult to make and I'm a bit surprised that the tradition has faded in so many Irish-American families. Soda bread is still made for St.Patrick's day but there are precious few families that still make barmbrack for Halloween. I have a pointer that will make your bread exceptional. In Ireland, the raisins and currants are steeped in tea for 24 hours before baking. At Chez Mary, they bathe in Jameson's Irish Whiskey. I have the happiest raisins in the Pacific Northwest. This is a lovely sweet bread. I hope you'll try it. Here's the recipe.

Irish Barmbrack...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

Ingredients:

1 cup milk
4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, divided use
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup currants
3/4 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup candied lemon peel
Glaze
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water

Directions:
1) Scald the milk or heat it on HIGH power for 1 minute in a microwave oven. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften.
2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 2 cups sifted flour, sugar, salt and allspice. Whisk to combine. Add yeast, milk and butter. Beat with paddle attachment for 2 minutes at medium speed. Cover and let sit in a warm spot for 30 minutes. When it has doubled in size, add 1 cup of reserved flour and beat with electric mixer on low speed until flour is well blended, about 1 minute. Repeat with the last cup of flour.
3) Turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 8 minutes, gradually working in currants, raisins and lemon peel. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise until double in bulk, about 90 minutes. Punch dough down. If you wish to add trinkets to dough, add them now. Shape the dough into a round loaf and set it on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise again until double in bulk, about 90 minutes.
4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake loaf for 45 to 50 minutes. Combine sugar with water and brush over loaf. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 1 loaf.

This post is being linked to:

Smiling Sally - Blue Monday

Wild Yeast - Yeast Spotting

49 comments:

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Lovely post, Mary, and while I love the blue skies, my magpie eye has fallen on that bread! Oh, it looks divine and so cute against that blue check cloth.

XO,

Sheila :-)

Libby Murphy said...

1592 - there could be a few spirits hanging around that lovely old spot. Wow that bread looks like another "perfect bite" and I love the story.
Happy Twirls

Deborah said...

The bread looks wonderful and I sure could use some good luck around here.

Hootin' Anni said...

That one photo of the tower framed in the arch is just stupendous. So pretty, and calming and serene.

mbkatc230 said...

I love this post Mary! My grandmother used to make this and I could not for the life of me remember what it was called. I'm not too handy with yeast breads, but this looks relatively simple. Thanks so much for bringing back some wonderful memories. Kathy

My Little Space said...

Such a lovely bake, Mary! Juz perfect for the coming Halloween festive season.

Cindy said...

Boy that looks good. Nice post.
cindy

Charli and me said...

Good morning Mary, I had never heard of Barmbrack bread until now. I am so excited to share this wonderful tradition with my family. What kinds of trinkets do you use? Thank you so much for this recipe and for sharing the tradition with all of us. Happy Blue Monday ♥

bj said...

I always love the info or stories you tell us ....this one, too.
The bread looks marvelous and so pretty with the blue.
Your lovely mosaic would be perfect at Mosaic Monday at the Little Red House...

A Year on the Grill said...

a beautiful bread and thanks for the excellent stories behind the recipe.

Chocolate Shavings said...

That bread looks so yummy!

SmilingSally said...

You've brought some interesting facts along with your BLUES to show us today. I like the idea of placing only "good" items inside the bread. Happy Blue Monday.

Selba said...

What a lovely bread being served during halloween in Ireland. Good to know it :)

Knitty said...

Hmmm, Australian goodies yesterday, Irish today. Are you trying to spread the calories around the world for us? They will all end up my hips anyway you know. :)

Boo-Bah said...

The bread looks wonderful. I think fresh break baking in the oven makes the kitchen smell heavenly.

Thank you for visiting my Blue Monday post.

Iris

LV said...

I am going to have stop visiting your post. You are killing me with all that great food and I cannot have any. I visit just to see what you have prepared for the day.

George Gaston said...

Mary... there is nothing like a bit of history to keep a recipe tradition going. But when the spirits of All Saint’s Eve are part of that history; there is always intrigue & mischief, too! Your bread looks fantastic and I bet it taste even better. Thanks for passing along this story & recipe.

Mary said...

Carol, I wrap dimes in aluminum foil and bake a few into my loaves of bread.

Alyssa said...

Beautiful bread, Mary! Thanks for sharing it. After falling in love with a Greek fruit and nut bread a few weeks ago, I think this one will be a hit, as well.

Neabear said...

What a bright blue in tne sign there! And the bread looks yummy nestled in the blue checked towel.

Thanks for visiting me. I try to keep my hands busy. :-)

~Linnea

Art Siegel said...

[Whistling on the corner next door where
He kept johnny mack brown�s horse.
O solo mio by mcgimsey
And the man who played the saw
Outside the city hall.
Pastie suppers down at davey�s chipper
Gravy rings, barmbracks
Wagon wheels, snowballs. ]
Van Morrison-A Sense of Wonder

Thanks, Mary.
How about recipes for the whole lot?

Mary said...

Art, please be patient with me. We'll eventually get to them all :-). I'm so glad you stopped by to visit. I hope you'll come often. It's such a treat to know someone who knows the words to the song. Now I'll be humming it all morning long. Take care....Mary

ivoryspring said...

Wow, Mary - that bread looks absolutely tasty!!!

Mar said...

What wonderful blue collage of Trinity College! Love reading about barmbrack and the trinkets!!

Gaby said...

I could go for some of this right now for a quick breakfast! yummm

Ms. Bake-it said...

Hello Mary,

Great mosaic of Trinity College but I must admit, the bread caught and held my attention. My grandmother and mother have always made soda bread and now I also make it. I did not know about Barmbrack. I hope to make it this coming weekend.

Thank you for sharing the history and recipe.

~ Tracy

shy said...

The cake is so yummm, nice post. thanks for sharing again the recipe. Happy Blue Monday!

viridian said...

Thanks for visting my blog!

charmine. said...

Enjoyed this post.Thank you for the recipe,I must try this sometime.Great blue monday post.Happy blue monday Mary.Are you Irish?Just curious.

Pam said...

Another great post Mary. I really need to try baking bread - you make it look so easy.

storyteller said...

Lovely blue mosaic and delicious looking bread! Thanks for your visit to my blue mosaic at Sacred Ruminations. Hope YOU'RE having a delightful day too ;--)
Hugs and blessings,

hip chick said...

I am going to link this post to my blog so that I can make the bread later on. I hope you don't mind. It looks delish!

Terry said...

I love trying new breads. This is one I hope to make in the next few weeks....hopefully for Halloween.

You always have such a great story to go along with the photo and then you give a recipe to boot. You are spoiling us.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I have heard of barmbrack but never knew what it was.
Looks tasty - I love the drunken raisins!

Mary said...

Charmine, I'm of Scotch -Irish extraction, but learned to cook in German, Scandinavian and Italian kitchens. Go figure.

KathyB. said...

I love baking bread and I love the background information you gave about this bread. I think I will need to bake it. Besides, happy raisins might do a body good!

Ginger said...

I am happy to be back at my blogging because that means see all your wonderful photos and recipes. I really like the bread and will definitely give my hand a try at it. I can only hope that it turns out as good as your Barmbrack!! Have a great week Mary!!

JG said...

Barmbrack Bread is a new bread to me. It sounds delicious! Thanks for the background and for the recipe.

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm not Irish, but I'd love this!

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

I love your posts because I know I;ll always find not only great bread but a good story or piece of lore as well. And now happy raisins too!

Shelia said...

Hi Mary! Beautiful blue mosaic! Oh, and your bread looks so delicious! Thanks for popping in to see me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Katy ~ said...

My niece attended Trinity for a semester on the foreign student exchange program and loved it there.

And boy does that Irish bread look good. It's gorgeous!

Lori said...

This looks like tastey bread.

Donna-FFW said...

This was such a charming post. I love the sound of the bread, and the blue check pattern meshes so perfectly.

Mumzie said...

Mary, What a wonderful post and recipe. In June we visited Trinity College and saw the "Book of Kells" which is so full of history. I'm going to make this bread, it looks wonderful! Thanks for the history and the tip on soaking the raisins....we also toured the Jamison Distillery in Dublin. Tasty Bits! Thanks,Mumzie

eveamp said...

I am Irish (and attend Trinity College)...just came across this but thought Id comment anyway! Traditionally the brack would contain lots of objects but now its more usually just a ring (which of course symbolises love!). Also, we have it every year but I would be more familiar with a version that is more of a "tea" cake than a soda bread!

Debinhawaii said...

What a delicious-looking bread and fun post.

Elle said...

Nice fruited bread and a great post. The whole All Hallows Eve thing was mostly the Christians taking the ancient Celtic Samhain tradition and dressing it up in a Christian Halloween costume.Guess this one will be baked this month...with some Irish whiskey soaked fruit!

Baked By Anna said...

I absolutely love traditional Irish baking--can't have enough recipes like these. Looks amazing, I may make it for Samhain this year!

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