Every country in the British Isles has its own fruit cake whether for celebrations or for tea time treats. In Ireland, the fruit cake of choice is a Barmbrack. This lovely moreish cake is also known as Barm Brack or sometimes, simply as Brack, everyone knows what it means as it is one of their most famous bakery products. The Gaelic name is báirín breac, or ‘speckled loaf’ referring to the speckles of fruit in the cake.
Traditionally, Brack is eaten at Halloween and as part of your St Patrick's Day celebrations. At Halloween, a custom has it to bake small objects into the cake, acting as a kind of fortune telling. Nowadays, more often than not it will be a ring, the finding of which delights the unmarried as it purports they will be the next to walk down the aisle.
Brack is also eaten year-round simply as a delicious treat at tea time when it is served with lovely, salty Irish butter and Brack a few days old is also lovely toasted.
- 1 tablespoon dried yeast
- 300ml ( 1 ½ cup) lukewarm water
- 55g (1/4 cup) + 1 extra teaspoon sugar for yeast
- 450g (5 cups) plain flour
- Pinch salt
- 55g (¼ cup) butter
- 175g (1 ¼ cup) raisins
- 55g ( ¼ cup) mixed candied peel
- 55g ( ¼ cup) sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
Makes 2 loaves
Heat the oven to/200C/400F/Gas 6 after the second kneading of the dough
- Place the yeast in the lukewarm water, add the teaspoon of sugar, stir and leave to one side.
- Put the flour into a large roomy, baking bowl, add the butter and salt and using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour to form sand-like crumbs. Work quickly to prevent the butter becoming too warm.
- Add the peel, raisins and the sugar to the flour mixture and stir.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture. Work the mixture together to form a soft dough.
- Knead the dough on a floured worktop for 10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Place the dough back into the bowl. Cover with a clean tea cloth and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 hour).
- Return the mixture to the worktop, divide in 2, knead each half for another few minutes then form into a round approx 20cm (7"). Place on a greased baking sheet and leave to rise for another hour.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool on a rack. The cake is lovely to eat straight away or store in a cake tin wrapped with a little greaseproof paper. Should there be any cake after a few days, it toasts well, but it is doubtful there will be.