Barmbrack is a fruit-filled, slightly sweet bread that is traditionally served In Ireland on Halloween, but is also enjoyed on St. Patrick’s Day. Originally, it was leavened with the frothy foam produced by fermenting beer, but since I don’t make my own beer, I used good old active-dry yeast instead. In keeping with the “spirit” of the thing, though, I did soak the dried fruit in beer.
Guinness is lovely…dark and rich, with a hint of coffee and chocolate. You can, of course, use any beer. Or milk. Or brewed tea. It’s all up to you.
This isn’t a difficult recipe, but it is time consuming. The fruit needs to be soaked for at least 2 hours, then it needs to rise twice, and since the dough is rich, this can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours each time. The good news is, the bread tastes even better the next day, so you can make it ahead of time.
And if you’re really rushed, I have an easier recipe for Tipsy Tea Brack that uses baking powder instead of yeast. It’s much faster, and aside from being just a little sweeter, the two breads are very similar. Both were a hit in my household, but I have a weakness for yeast breads, especially when toasted, and didn’t mind spending a day babysitting the dough. Mmmm.
|Irish Barmbrack|| |
- 1¼ cups liquid (beer, milk, or brewed tea)
- 1½ cups dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, fruitcake mix)
- zest from 1 lemon
- ½ cup very warm water with a pinch of sugar added
- 1 packet (1/4 oz) active-dry yeast
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or ½ teaspoon. cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon each: clove, ginger, allspice, nutmeg)
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (if using unsalted butter, add an additional pinch of salt)
- In a small pan, heat liquid until steaming, but not boiling. Remove from heat.
- Add dried fruit and lemon zest. Cover tightly and let fruit sit for at least 2 hours. Strain into a bowl,. Press firmly on fruit to remove excess liquid. Reserve 1 cup of liquid, discarding any remaining. If necessary, add water to bring the amount to a full cup.
- In a small bowl or cup, combine the warm water and yeast. Let it sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is recommended), combine the cup of reserved liquid, ¼ cup sugar, egg, vanilla, spices, yeast mixture, and 2 cups of the bread flour. Beat until well combined.
- Switch to a dough hook and add remaining flour and salt. Knead by machine for 3 minutes, then drizzle in the butter and knead for an addition minute. Add fruit and mix until combined. (If kneading by hand, add the butter along with the last 2 cups of flour, then move dough to a floured surface and knead 6 minutes, working the fruit in at the end.)
- Transfer dough into a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise until doubled. This may take 1½ hours or more, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
- Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to distribute the fruit evenly. Form into a ball and place in prepared pan. Cover and let rise until almost doubled.
- Heat oven to 375 F. Bake bread for approximately 50 minutes. The top should be dark brown. Turn the bread out onto a cooling rack. The bottom should sound hollow when tapped. (If in doubt, give it a few more minutes in the oven.) Allow the bread to cool completely before cutting.