529. Barmbrack or speckled bread (báirín breac)
a bread for Halloween
The We Knead to Bake group started by Aparna was challenged to bake a Barmbrack for October. Just the right sort of loaf as Halloween is just round the corner. What is a barmbrack? It’s an Irish bread usually baked to serve on the night of Halloween.The Celtic festival Samhain, meaning end of summer and All Hallows’Evening was merged as one. Its believed that souls of the dead walk the earth on that evening. Barmbrack is an Irish sweet bread. Barm comes from the word beorma meaning a yeasty fermented liquor
and brack comes from the Irish word brac meaning speckled. Speckled because the sweet loaf is dotted with dried fruits like raisins, sulatanas, cranberries, apricots, mixed peel etc.In Gaelic its known as báirín breac (speckled loaf). 5 items are added to the dough, a thimble, a ring, a coin, a piece of wood and a small piece of cloth. Each member must get a slice of the bread. Whoever got a timble meant they would not get married, if one found a coin it meant that they would get rich, a ring meant marriage, a piece of wood meant a rocky marriage and a piece of cloth meant that one would be poor. Of course I didn’t bake the bread with all those items. Imagine if my hubby got a ring!!! That would be disastrous 🙂 🙂 Traditionally the dried fruit is soaked overnight in black tea and whiskey. However, I didn’t follow the tradition. Just used black tea.
The loaf was really delicious with the taste of soaked soft fruit, spices and a hint of tea. I just used my home made tea masala. If you don’t have tea masala, use ¼ -½ tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove and cardamom powders.
BARMBRACK OR SPECKLED BREAD
3-3½ cups plain flour (all purpose flour)
1 cup mixed dry fruit (raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots, mixed peel)
1½ cups hot strong black tea
2¼ tsp instant active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
1 tsp tea masala
½ tsp salt
30 g soft butter (approx.2 tbsp)
enough warm milk
extra flour for dusting
extra butter for greasing
Topping / Glaze (optional)
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp water
- Soak the fruit in the hot strong black tea overnight.
- Next day drain out the fruit and reserve the liquid.
- Warm the liquid and pour it into a 1 cup measure.
- Top it up with warm milk to make it up to 1 cup.
- Sift the flour with the spice and salt.
- Add sugar and yeast. Mix it well.
- Rub in half the amount of the butter.
- Add the liquid and knead the dough till it is soft and silky. If using a dough machine, knead it for 5-7 minutes. If using your hands, then you need to knead it for 10 -15 minutes.
- Add the fruit and knead it into the flour. If need be, add a little flour and knead the dough.
- Grease a bowl with butter. Form the dough into a ball.
- Place the dough into the bowl.
- Cover with a cling film and leave it in a warm place to ferment till it is double the size. This will take about 1½ – 2 hours.
- Gently knead the dough.
- Grease a loaf tin 9″X 5″ with butter.
- Dust the work top with little flour.
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle and roll it up like a swiss roll. Seal the edges by pinching it.
- Tuck the ends underside and place the log into the prepared tin.
- Let the dough rise again till it is about one inch above the rim of the tin or for 45 – 60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Place the tin the oven to bake for 35-45 minutes till the top is golden brown.
- Check the bread after 15 -20 minutes. If the top becomes brown too quickly, cover it with an aluminium foil and bake.
- Remove the tin from the oven. Let the bread cool for 3-4 minutes in the tin. Remove it from the tin and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
- Serve plain with butter or toasted.
- If you are using the glaze, mix the sugar and water. Apply on the top just 5 minutes before the baking time is over. Apply the glaze and return the loaf in the oven.
- Use a spice mixture of your preference if you don’t have tea masala.
- Use dried fruits of your choice.
- Toasted slices taste equally delicious.
- You can make 2 small loaves or shape it into a round bread.
- Soaking the fruit overnight makes its more soft and the tea infuses into the fruit.
- You can add 1 egg to the dough, but adjust the required amount liquid accordingly.