Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Barm Brack

As promised. A recipe.

Barm Brack, or Bara Brith in Wales, means Speckled Bread, and is basically a Tea Brack. It is a traditional fruit cake, somewhere between bread and cake, that is eaten at Halloween, and as children, we were enticed to eat it because of the money and the ring that were hidden inside it! Whoever finds the ring will be the first to marry.

You will find recipes that use yeast but bread soda would have been more traditional. This recipe uses baking powder. It also has the addition of lemon and orange zest which would not have been traditional.

As well as the ring for marriage it would also have had: (all wrapped in greaseproof paper)
a coin for wealth
a small piece of cloth for poverty
a pea for plenty
a thimble for a spinster
a button for a bachelor
a matchstick to beat your husband/wife (imagine!!!)

You can guess why most of these have fallen by the wayside...


12oz mixed fruit like raisins and sultanas.
6oz fructose or 8oz sugar.
300ml hot, strong tea.
Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange.
5oz brown flour, 
4oz white flour, (I use spelt)
1 and a quarter tsp baking powder
1 medium egg.

Pour the hot tea over the fruit and sugar and leave over night in the fridge.

The next day stir in the zest.

In a large bowl mix the flours and baking powder, and then add the fruit and the soaking liquid.
Stir in the egg and mix it well.

Turn it into a lined and greased loaf tin, level the surface, and bake it for about an hour and a half at 150c.

I'm lucky I got to photograph this before it was all eaten! Hence the dodgy quality of this pic. It's best eaten thickly sliced with real butter and a big mug of tea. 
Now there's one of my favourite combinations ever. Yum...!

It's also good enough to throw into a cake tin and present it as cake. I make a thin glaze of icing sugar and enough milk to make a slightly runny icing, and if you have it, a drop of orange essence. 
I'd love to hear what you think if you get a chance to try this! 


marta said...

yum yum yum!!! wish i had shared that one with you... I have to make it here, no other option for now!!! it makes me feel good when you share your recipes, closer to home xxx

Mrs.French said...

I can't wait to try this and blog about it! thanks for the recipe!

Emma said...

Oooo, I love barm brack. That looks so moist and yummy. Nothing like a slice of brack thick with butter and a cup of tea on an autumn afternoon. Delightful. Must make one this weekend if I get a chance. Wasn't there a charm for the future invalid too? Probably varies around the country.

Emma said...

Speaking of regional variations. When I first moved to the USA various people told me, "I love Irish soda bread, with those caraway seeds." And I would say, "You are bonkers. Irish soda bread doesn't have caraway seeds!" But then I read about the history of soda bread in a Darina Allen book my friend has, which said that caraway seeds were/are traditionally added to bread in some northern parts of the country, and the recipe made its way to the US with those migrants and spread out from there. It's crazy--it's like language, and genes: some things filter through and become the norm and somethings don't make it at all.

Ciara Brehony said...

Well I never, Emma! Caraway seeds! Just goes to show. We think we have the rights to traditional food but it really is just a regional thing after all!

Lisa Conmara said...

Nothing like brack, toasted and spread with real butter... oh merciful lamb you'd ate the whole ting!

Karen said...

Yum! :)

affectioknit2 said...

My first visit here - That looks Yummy!

Anonymous said...

I've made this twice in the last few days. First on Halloween night to bring to a friends party and it went down a storm! There wasnt a morsel left and again today. Its now my favorite cake recipe., I'm hooked! I tried spelt flour and gluten free white flour in the first brack and today I used gluten free white flour and buckwheat flour and they both worked a treat! Thanks so much for sharing : ) I'm off for some hot brack out of the oven cheers!

Ciara Brehony said...

So delighted to hear that Niamh! I really should make it for myself with gluten free flour as spelt is not great for me, though fine for the rest of the family. I suppose I tend to just not bother when it's just for me. Typical Irish Mammy eh? :-)

So thank YOU for the inspiration!