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Baking a Traditional Irish Barmbrack
Traditional Irish Dish
Barmbrack (or báirín breac), , as it is called in Irish) is a traditional Irish cake usually prepared at Halloween. If the chef is following old customs, the cake will contain a number of small objects wrapped in grease-proof paper and placed in the bread before baking. Now-a-days, people tend to just push the prizes up through the bottom of the brack once it's baked and cooled.
These items included a matchstick, a small coin, a pea, a thimble, a piece of cloth or a bean, and a ring. Each of the objects conveyed a message to whomever found it in their slice of brack.
If you received the stick, it meant that you would enter into a marriage plagued by arguments and disputes, whereas finding the coin meant that you would be wed to a man or woman who possessed endless riches. The finder of the pea was predicted to remain unmarried until next Halloween at least, the thimble forewarned that the person who discovered it would remain single for life, and he or she who came across the cloth would have nothing but bad luck and misfortune. The ring was the most valued of all the items, as the individual who discovered it in their brack slice was likely to marry the man or woman of their dreams within the year.
Though brack is usually served at Halloween, it can be eaten on any holiday. If you're a lover of simple, fruity, home-baked treats, then this bread is just the thing for you. Enjoy it with a wee sup of whisky, or a nice cup of tea. It's also perfect as a side at breakfast time.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 5 hours, 15 minutes
Makes: 12 servings
1 1/2 cups hot brewed tea
2 1/2 cups dried chopped mixed fruit
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup lemon marmalade
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1. Place the dried fruit in the tea and let it soak for a period of two hours, then gently drain off the liquid and gently squeeze out any tea the fruit absorbed.
2. Preheat your oven to a temperature of 350°F (175°C).
3. Grease a 9 inch Bundt pan and stir the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large mixing bowl. Set both of these to one side for now.
4. Beat together the lemon marmalade, sugar, orange zest, the egg, and the tea-soaked fruit until they are properly blended.
5. Fetch the flour mixture you prepared just a few moments ago and carefully fold it into the fruit concoction until it is only just combined - don't over-mix it.
6. Spoon the mixture into the Bundt pan you prepared earlier and bake the brack in your preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.
7. Leave the barmbrack to cool down in the pan for about 2 hours before transferring it to a wire rack, where it should be left to cool to room temperature.
8. Just before you serve the brack, carefully push the items up through the bottom - remember to space them out evenly, so that no-one gets two objects.
Notes & Tips
-To test if the brack is fully cooked, press gently down on top of it. If the top springs back, it is ready.
-If you are finding it difficult to remove the barmbrack from its pan after cooling, fill your kitchen sink with warm water and sit the pan in it. This should loosen it.