BarmBrack / Báirín Breac (Irish fruit bread)

Barmbrack is a tea bread popular in Ireland, especially around Halloween and to be honest i never had it anytime other than for Halloween. I like mine plain with no butter or jam and when i want to fancy it up i will use some raspberry jam. BarmBrack 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, “to beat one’s wife with”, 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. 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. Commercially produced barmbracks for the Halloween market still include a toy ring that looks like a wedding band, i know my sister and I would get jealous if the other one got the ring. I’m glad we don’t now put all these items in our Báirín Breac i think I’d be kinda upset if i got the stick lol

Ingredients..

* 3 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
* 1 teaspoon allspice
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) cut in pea-sized pieces
* 2 tablespoons free-flowing brown sugar
* 3/4 ounce active dried yeast (3 packets)
* 1 1/4 cups milk
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 1/2 cup sultanas
* 1/2 cup raisins
* 1 cup currants
* 1 cup candied mixed peel (optional i don’t like using it)
* 1 small egg, beaten, for glazing

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Using fingers or a pastry cutter, work in butter. Do not expect mixture to form a mealy texture. Stir in all but 1 teaspoon sugar.

In a medium bowl, mix together sugar and yeast. Heat milk until it is warm (110°). Whisk into yeast and sugar combination. Let cool slightly. Stir in eggs. Mix well and add to dry ingredients.

Stir in sultanas, raisins, currants and peel. Mix well. Turn mixture onto a floured work surface and knead about 3 – 5 minutes, or until dough is elastic.

Place dough in greased 8 inch round cake pan. Cover with cloth and put in warm, draft-free place to rise, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Brush top of bread with egg. Bake in preheated 400°F oven for about 40 – 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

WAU Ireland

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