Some of you will have heard me mention the Barmbrack, either in person or on this very blog. It is an Irish sweet bread made for Halloween that is especially yummy toasted and smothered in butter alongside your preferred afternoon hot drink (mine being coffee, I don’t hold with tea, don’t believe in it!). Traditionally it would have objects baked into the brack that would tell your fortune for the coming year. They were a pea (the person won’t marry within the year), a matchstick (the person will have an unhappy marriage), a coin (the person would be rich), a ring (the person would marry within the year) and a piece of cloth (the person would have bad luck or be poor)!
When we were growing up my mother made this for Halloween, (not the yeasted version (which is my fave) but the light fruitcake version sometimes called a Tea Brack) and always added a pea, a matchstick, a coin and a ring (not the cloth, maybe because that fortune was just too bad!) and we would all scramble to find the coin or the ring. It was a fun Halloween tradition, along with apple bobbing and trying to take a bite out of an apple on a string with your hands tied behind your back! We enjoyed it, we were young.
As part of my seasonal offering at Cakes & Cakes I want to bring the Barmbrack to a wider audience. Unfortunately, these won’t have the fortune telling objects, health and safety risk I’m afraid! My first port of call for a recipe was my Maura Laverty book, it seemed like a fairly standard recipe if a touch on the large side, so I halved her quantities. It has bread flour, salt, sugar, yeast, milk, butter, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel and mixed spice. Some other recipes call for eggs but I went with this as a starting point.
This recipe calls for the fruit to be added after the first rise. As many of you will know adding ingredients to dough after the first rise is a nightmare, especially dried fruit. It just goes everywhere and it takes a lot of kneading to get it all incorporated. Wherein lay the problem, my dough was overworked. This became clear once it went in the oven, there was no rise at all and then when I cut into it it was very dense. It should be fluffy, almost a brioche texture. I also think the addition on an egg would help here too.
As you can see from the picture it was a sad looking beasty. So back to the drawing board on the recipe, I have devised one that I want to test next week so will let you know if my plan works. Despite it’s shortcomings it was still a very tasty sweet bread that kept me in buttery toasted yumminess for the last few days.