Barmbrack Recipe~~Irish Bread

Usually sold in flattened rounds, it is often served toasted with butter along with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The dough is sweeter than sandwich bread, but not as rich as cake, and the sultanas and raisins add flavour and texture to the final product. In Ireland it is sometimes called Báirín Breac, and the term is also used as two words in its more common version. This may either be from the Irish word báirín – a loaf – and breac – speckled (due to the raisins in it), hence it means a speckled loaf (a similar etymology to the Welsh bara brith). The yeast used was said to be skimmed from the top of fermenting beer and, as beer would also have been made at this time, this is likely. This suggests an alternative etymology, from the use of barm as just such a yeast. Note that the most common spelling in Ireland is Barmbrack.

Ingredients for Irish Barmbrack

  • 450g/ 4 cups strong bread flour
  • 25g/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 50g/ ¼ cup caster, superfine sugar
  • 7.5 ml/ 1 ½ teaspoons easy blend yeast
  • 2.5 ml/ ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1.5 ml/ ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 175g/1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 175g/ 1 cup currants
  • 50g/ ¼ cup chopped mixed (candied) peel
  • 300ml/ 1 ¼ cup of warm strong tea

How to make Irish Barmbrack

Place the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter or margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir in 5 ml/1 teaspoon of the sugar.
Then add the yeast, ginger and nutmeg mix well
Stir in the sultanas, currants and mixed peel and make a well in the centre.
Gradually work in enough of the warm tea to make a soft but not sticky dough.
Knead well until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl clean.
Knead on a lightly floured board for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Place in an oiled bowl cover with Cling-film (plastic wrap)and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size
Knead again and then shape into a large round and place on a greased baking sheet.
Cover and leave in a warm place or 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Shape into a greased and lined 900g/ 2lb loaf tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 230°C/450°F gas mark 8 for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/400°F gas mark 6 for a further 20 minutes until well risen and golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
Dissolve the remaining sugar in 15ml/ 1 tablespoon of hot water and brush the syrup over the loaf and return to the oven for 2 minutes.
Leave to cool then serve sliced with butter.

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