Barmbrack (Irish-bairín breac), a sweet yeast bread speckled with raisins and currants was created by the Irish to celebrate the Celtic holiday Samhain, a festival celebrating the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. The festival is usually held between October 31-November 1 which makes Barnbrack is a popular bread for Halloween festivities. Traditionally, inserted in the risen dough is a foil-wrapped coin in which the lucky recipient can look forward to a prosperous year. Sometimes, a rag and a ring are included along with the coin-the rag not a good sign for one’s financial future, but the ring a sign of romance or happiness. My barmbrack rose beautifully and baked to a golden brown. Toasted and slathered with butter, it is destined to be a staple in my kitchen. Since I have made this bread, I have come across recipes with many variations. For example, substitute strong black tea for the water, add candied orange or lemon peel or add a variety of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and mace.
Original Recipe The Best Bread Machine Cookbook Ever-Ethnic Breads
Ingredients-Large Loaf (1-1/2 pounds)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons powdered milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons grated orange or lemon zest
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups water
1-1/2 cups golden raisins, or 3/4 golden raisins and 3/4 cup currants
1 coin, wrapped in foil (optional)
Add all the ingredients except the raisins and/or currants and coin in the order suggested by your bread machine manual. Process on the dough cycle. At the beeper or just after the end of the first kneading, add the raisins/currants. Continue on the dough cycle.
Meanwhile, lightly grease an 8-inch-2 inch deep cake pan. When cycle has completed, remove dough to a lightly floured surface, punch down and flatten into an 8-inch disc. Place disc in prepared pan. If using the coin, grease a square if foil-wrap around the coin and insert in the middle of the dough-about an inch deep. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 30-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake barmbrack 35-45 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped. Makes 1 large barmbrack.
A few years ago while visiting English friends, the four of us flew from Bournemouth to Dublin for a 3 day weekend. Riding the hop on hop off bus, we were able to see nearly the entire city, the highlight being the Guinness Storehouse, an incredible brewery with a rich history. In 1759, Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease on a four acre disused brewery at St. James Gate, Dublin. It costs him £100 with an annual rent of £45 which included precious water rights. Guinness used to be the largest brewery in the world, but now is the largest brewer of stout in the world. At the end of this very informative tour, a tall glass of dark and lovely Guinness stout was enjoyed at the Gravity Bar offering a panoramic view of Dublin. That short trip to Dublin has been my only experience visiting Ireland, but over at The Dreaming Seed, Roberta visually takes us on our ninth journey of abbecedario-culinario-della-comunita (European Community Culinary ABC) visiting Ireland and preparing a tantalizing Irish Stew.
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