It doesn’t happen that often that someone writes about me, but when Savour described me, I was truly over the moon: “It’s rather interesting to witness a passion for everything Irish when so many Irish people tend to face outwardly when searching for foodie inspiration. This is beginning to shift as more people discover the wonders of Irish food (and Irish produce) but for now, we can thank Tine at Home for providing us with this fantastic recipe for Boxty (Traditional Irish Potato Pancakes). Tine really knows how to make a tummy grumble and a heart swell with patriotic pride!”
It’s no secret that I have a deep love for Ireland and its language (yes I’m learning Irish), culture, nature and people, which are some of the reasons why I left Belgium behind to move here and although many people might think there isn’t much to discover in Ireland, when it comes to food, I’m still discovering more and more each day!
As today is Halloween I’m going to share a recipe with you all for an old Irish Halloween Custom: Barmbrack (Bairín Breac)! It’s a moist teacake with loads of dried fruit inside, which gives it a very sweet flavour but it’s also packed with great spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.
“Barmbrack is the centre of an Irish Halloween custom. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be wed within the year. Other articles added to the brack include a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolise going into the priesthood or to the Nuns, although this tradition is not widely continued in the present day.”
Now there are quite a lot of different recipes out there, some using baking powder and plain flour, others self-raising, some use caster sugar, brown or light brown sugar, some adding a splash of whiskey, .. I went for a combination of brown and white sugar, self-raising flour without baking powder or whiskey (cause I didn’t have any!). But if you prefer to use light brown sugar or only brown/white: the same quantities apply so you can change it up to your own liking as long as you have 125g of sugar.
I also made my own ‘Mixed Spice’ as I didn’t have that yet, I added my own mix below, just remember to only take one teaspoon out of it in the end, or the cake will be too flavourful.
Now let’s get cooking and make sure to hide a ring in there to keep the tradition alive! One last thing to keep in mind though: you need to soak the fruit overnight so make sure to have the ingredients the day before you want to bake this cake.
Makes: 1 loaf
- 2 tea bags of Irish Breakfast tea
- 750 ml boiled water
- 375g dried fruit mix
- 65g brown sugar
- 60g white sugar
- 1 large egg
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
- Optional: icing sugar to dust, a ring, a splash of whiskey
To make your own Mixed Spice:
1 tablespoon ground allspice (I used whole allspice, crushed them first with a mortar and then blended them)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Boil the water and soak the tea bags for 2-3 minutes. Add fruit and leave to cool down completely. Place in a fridge to soak overnight.
Add all the dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, sugar, spice and stir it all together. then add the egg in the middle and mix it in with the dry ingredients. You can do this manually or with the help of mixer of course, I used my KitchenAid to mix the ingredients together. Once all these ingredients are mixed we can move on to the fruit and the tea! Drain the tea into a separate bowl as we’ll be using some of this to make our dough wetter. Squeeze the fruit before adding it to the other ingredients and then add 100 ml of the cold tea. You can add more if the dough is too dry, but I found that 100ml was the perfect amount to use. Don’t forget to stir in the ring if you are adding one.
Pop in a preheated oven at 185 degrees for one hour, so your dough will rise plenty. You can sprinkle some icing sugar on top or even decorate it with some candy spiders or pumpkins for a bigger Halloween effect.
Note: The beautiful Autumn Harvest Basket you see comes from Carraig Donn