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12 August 2008

Making Barmbrack

Although I didn't do much in the way of chores on the weekend, I did bake some barmbrack. Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruit bread made with black tea and it's utterly delicious. The dough is a little like cinnamon roll dough but not as sweet. Barmbrack is great hot, straight from the oven, but this recipe makes a full loaf, so it's just as well it also makes luscious toast.

Traditionally, barmbrack is baked in a round cake tin but whenever I bake it I use whatever tin I grab first, this weekend it was a bread tin. No matter what shape it is, I'm sure you'll find it to be one of those reliable recipes that you'll bake again and again. And some good news, you can do it quickly in your breadmaker, or by hand if you desire.

  • Make up a strong pot of plain black tea - you'll need about four cups, enough to cover the dried fruit.
  • 3½ cups dried fruit - sultanas (golden raisins), raisins, currants and peel.
Pour the tea over the fruit and allow to soak overnight or about one hour minimum.
  • Add large teaspoon of dried yeast to a cup of warm milk and 1 teaspoon sugar. Mix and allow to froth up.
To make the dough, add to your breadmaker:
  • 3 cups white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • The prepared yeast mix.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/3 cup soft butter

Start breadmaker on bread dough setting. You won't cook the loaf in the breadmaker.

Strain the tea off the fruit and allow to drain. If you have a breadmaker that has a fruit and nut compartment, add the fruit to it, otherwise, add the fruit at the end of the mixing cycle, before the dough has its first rise. If you're not sure when this is, time the dough and add the fruit about 30 minutes into the cycle.

When the dough is ready, take it out of the machine, roll it out onto a floured board and form into a loaf or round shape to suit your baking pan. Then place the dough into the greased and papered pan. Allow to rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size- this will take between 30 - 60 minutes, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. Add nuts to the top if you wish. (I am in the midst of a compulsion to add flaked almonds to every sweet thing I bake.) ;- )

Place in a hot oven and bake on 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes. The loaf will sound hollow when you tap it when it's cooked properly.

Serve warm with butter, or it can be toasted the following days and buttered.

Long term readers will know I celebrated my 60th birthday this past April. And when I say 'celebrated', I really did celebrate my age. Not with a wild party and alcohol, (although we did have a party) but by truly embracing my age, as well as who and what I am. Whenever I fall short of my own expectations now I say silently to myself: "I am what I am"; it helps when I feel I haven't done enough. I know some of you think I'm fast approaching sainthood, but I am as flawed as the next person and "I am what I am" reminds me of it and allows me to fall short occasionally. Anyhow, I didn't mean to go on with all that, but instead to tell you that one of the most treasured gifts I received on my birthday was from my sister, Tricia, who made this felt and wool stitchery for me. Well, I made it into a cushion on the weekend. It took its own sweet time to do and after sitting on the sewing table all that time, it only took about 45 minutes to complete. I know Tricia will read the blog this morning while she drinks her first cup of tea, so here it is, Tricia! Finally!

Now, just a few questions to answer from yesterday. Amber, you stamp soap depending on the recipe you use. The copha soap - or any of the solidified oils you have to melt, will harden faster, so you stamp them sooner. If you make a straight olive oil/rice bran oil and liquid coconut oil, you can stamp it the next day. Just test the soap with your finger, when you feel it's hardening and would hold the shape of the stamp, try one.
Lynette, you can use any grain in a heat bag - wheat, rice or lentils. I like to use an organic grain and I think it's safer when you're putting it into the microwave to heat it up.

Sharon, yes, I've thought about a Welsh Terrier and that would be my ideal, but we can't afford to buy $1000 dogs anymore. We'll be looking at the pound this time.

Kaye, thanks for your thoughts on the clothing. Much appreciated.

Christine, yep, more dishcloths. I'm trying to make a stack of them to sell with soap when I start selling online. I'll write more on knitting tomorrow.

Lisa, Bernadette and I were discussing the Pembrokes on the weekend. She used to have a corgi. Regarding the laundry powder - you can use any pure soap, either bath soap or laundry soap. I am only using my homemade castile soap now and it makes a lovely mix. I gave some of my castile soap to Bernadette and she reports the same softness with her skin. She's going to make her own soap from now on.

I want to thank you all again for your kind messages and for sharing your stories about your own pets. It really did make it easier for me when I read them. A special hello and warm hugs to Julia in Mackay and Heather Dundas. Welcome to all newcomers, I hope you enjoy your time here.


  1. Pedigree animals: - I'd suggest contacting breeders - often breeders need to move on their breeding stock & they are wanting loving homes for them - price is usually a lot less, as the breeder normally wants to make sure they are going to a loving forever home. One read of your blog & they will be sold!

    Love Leanne

  2. Hello Rhonda, that recipe looks delicious! I remember your birthday and the wonderful celebrations that were true to you, so it's good to see the lovely stitchery from Tricia.

    It's been truly heartwarming reading all the comments about Rosie, and people sharing their own stories. My beautiful retriever Dillon died last year age 6, far too young, and only 2.5 months after my Mum died unexpectedly. The bottom fell out of my world. However, I now have two rescue golden retrievers - one old, one young. Both came with 'issues' and it's been hard work (I wouldn't have two big dogs again, not least the hair they shed, and mess they make) but they have helped me heal - and I like to think I've helped them. So the right dog will come along, when the time is right. No dog will ever replace Rosie, but there is room in your heart for another.

    Have a happy day.
    Diana x

  3. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I'm loving your blog and it is leading to us making small changes at a time as we homeschool our 3 children on 1 salary. A practical question, do you know of a bulk flour/grain seller in the Brisbane Northside area?
    Thanks muchly and take care

  4. Hi Rhonda, that bread looks amazing. I can almost smell it from here. I'm going to bake it for my dear brother in law and sister in law who are coming for lunch on Friday - we don't see them very often, so it will be a special time.
    Also, I wanted to tell you that we are planning a handmade Christmas this year in my family, and I plan on making your dishcloths and trying my hand at soapmaking for my mother and sister.
    Still thinking of you over your loss of Rosie. My little cocker spaniel dog died about 14 years ago and I still miss him, even though we have two wonderful dogs now.
    Love Rachel from NZ

  5. Rhonda-you know how much I love corgis-us having two and my daughter one, Pems are great-tough and smart, but they are not small dogs-they are large dogs on short legs and are very, very powerful; they are in the herding group and can run fast and hard and take a kick and a tumble and just shrug it off. Corgis are loyal and loving. They are a ton of fun and love!

  6. Good morning Leanne, Diana, Gina, Rachel and Sharon. :- )

    Sharon, yes, I remember discussing your corgis with you and that was why I asked Bernadette about hers. Hugs to you.

    Gina, I most certainly have that info for you. You can buy organic grain and flours online from Kialla:


    You can do what I do and shop at Simply Good. They have a shop at Morayfield and at Annerley. Details here:

  7. Border collies are a nice intelligent dog.
    I guess you have to be careful about the chickens - I have read dogs sometimes chase them. A lot of dogs end up in the pound because they bark incessantly but I guess you can break them of the habit. We have a beagle next door - very mellow and loves to walk.
    The bread looks great - I make it a lot - especially in the cool weather.
    lizzie in chicago

  8. Hello Rhonda - I just found your blog a couple of weeks ago and am enjoying it so much. Even though I was new here, I felt so sad when I read your loving tribute to your beloved Rosie. It sounds like you are dealing with it as best you can. Like so many others, I share your sadness; I lost a very special cat about a year and a half ago and not a day goes by without me thinking of him. Of course life goes on, but they do remain in our hearts.

    Your bread looks like something I would really enjoy - I drink a lot of tea, and use golden raisins in my cookies already. The ingredient list alone is mouth-watering! I bake bread but don't have a breadmaker, so I may have to figure out how to adapt.

  9. The embroidery on your pillow is just beautiful - what a lovely gift from your sister. That was a great idea to turn it into a pillow!
    I'm really looking forward to seeing some of your dishcloths for sale :))

  10. Hello Rhonda! The bread looks delicious and I am going to try it as soon as I can get to Wild Oats to get the fruits- think I'll use some dried apricots along with the golden raisins. I have a wonderful recipe for a blueberry gingerbread which has a cup of hot tea in it. Very delicious! If you get a new pup from the pound, you will be truly saving a life and giving a good home to a desperate animal. Our two "rescue" dogs are wonderful, devoted pets! Victoria

  11. Rhonda,

    Thank you! Your explanation is perfect. My first batch used solid oils, and when I went to stamp after unmolding, it was just too hard.

    I'm excited to try again--my husband is building me two new wooden moulds this weekend!

  12. Barmbrack looks scrumptious. I must try it. And it has the added benefit of being energy food:)

    My husband and I have never actually chosen a dog ourselves I don't think. We currently have a border collie, a blue heeler, and a chihuahua - all of whom were left with "grandma and grandpa" while their owners (our daughters) were away to school. We wouldn't part with them now, of course, but all the girls know that we're not taking any more in!

  13. Happy birthday from another birthday girl. Great recipe - how did you know I have a morning tea to go to tomorrow and didn't know what to take?
    Take care

  14. I don't have the dried fruit on hand or I'd make the bread tomorrow. It looks and sounds so good! I love a slice of toasted bread with my afternoon coffee.

    The stitchery is darling. What a wonderful blessing from your sister, and what a cherished pillow that will be.

  15. Hi Rhonda;
    I have been visiting your blog for about a year. Just a note to say sorry about your loss. The right dog will come along when you are ready. I have 2 and one of them is a Lakeland Terrier, she only weighs 12 lbs, she is a rescue dog, that has come with some issues. My heart goes out to the two of you. Still enjoying your blog:)

  16. Ah, barmbrack. Takes me straight into a Maeve Binchy novel.

    I look forward to trying this one.


  17. Mm, barmbrack. I just bookmarked a recipe to try it but yours sounds better.
    Thanks for posting it.

  18. Rhonda,
    Thanks for the recipe; I have never made it but as soon as it gets cooler here I'd like to turn on my oven and try it.
    Thanks for sharing with us in the way you do, even during this time. Good luck as you decide what to do about getting your 2nd

  19. The Barmbrack looks yummy. Definitely a fall/winter recipe though I think it may test my skills. I've never made bread other than in a bread machine, thus no yeast mixing/rising etc.

    Rhonda, I cannot stress how much your life and blogs have made such an impact on my life. I have been saving old clothes for about a year now hoping that one day I would make rags out of them. So yesterday I pulled out my sewing machine. I started and quickly stopped as something jammed. I have no idea what I'm doing but I'm going to give it a whirl. No Martha Stewart in this home!

    I don't know about in Australia, but here in the States the rampant consumerism feeds perceived perfection and I have never liked it. Even as a kid I had a difficult time making a Christmas wish list as I felt guilty about asking for something that I didn't need.
    I'll be 35 this year and I feel like an oddball. I garden, freeze my harvest, attempt to sew, don't shop except for essentials, shop for kids clothes at the local Goodwill and staples at the grocery store rather than the mall and big box store but yet I'm content with my life. I don't strive to see the latest movie or gossip about celebrities.

    I've never had a role model that valued these things. This evening my mom once again said she doesn't understand why anyone would want to can when it's so much easier to go to the store and buy the same thing.

    Thank you for sharing.

  20. Thanks so much for the heat bag hints Rhonda! I feel so special!

    The lovely cushion your dear sis' made is just it and a bit! I love it and can sense how many hours and much love is sewn into it! It looks so comfy and warm too.


    Lynette from Adelaide.

  21. Oh gosh I love that stitchery!!! I may try the bread too...I am a little leery of fruit in bread, but I have made the same bread for the last 3 days and am looking for something different. Thanks for posting it!


  22. hi Rhonda
    thought since i have been lurking on your site for a good while i should say hello and of course thank you. I first came across your advice/tips/recipes on the als site 3 years ago and you did inspire me to take a good long look at the way i was living....which believe me was not a true life. Anyway to cut a long story short i love your site and i love hearing about your days. You have many friends in cyber space that are thinking of you at this time.

    mary doll

  23. Hi Rhonda, I am really sorry to hear about Rosie, I know how you feel as I had to put my beautiful little dog to sleep a few years ago, suffering from the same thing as Rosie. I still miss her. Hope you find another one soon, to help fill part of the hole in your life.

    Would it be possible for you to advise me how to make the barmbrack without a bread machine, please? Sadly, I need to be led by the hand as I am a complete novice when it comes to breadmaking, but I really want to try this one. Only ever made one loaf of bread before and it was a quick recipe with no kneading.

    That stitchery is just fantastic.!
    I love your blog. Every day there is something to cheer me up.



  24. The Barmbrack is pretty well identical to our Welsh Bara Brith - you've put me in mind to make some now. Must put the kettle on!

    I hope that you will be able to find a dog in the pound who will fit in with you just fine and dandy, though you will be mourning Rosie for a while yet. I took in an old Whippet lurcher a few years back, when he must have been 12 or so. Barney had a couple of years with us before it was his time to leave. Now we have my mum's old dog Trixie, who also came from the pound when she was only a year or two old. Now she must be 14 or so, and going blind and doddery, poor old girl.

    I absolutely LOVE that embroidery your sister made for you - certainly something to cherish. It's SO colourful and pretty. If you look on my blog, I have just posted photos of some absolute heirloom pieces of embroidery which I got at an auction at the weekend - I knew that I HAD to have them, and they will be much treasured by me. I am now inspired to make an heirloom piece for each of my two daughters and having a great time trying to chose what I will sew.

  25. Hi Rhonda! I had no idea when you had a birthday. I believe each season of life has its beauty. I loved being a carefree single young woman, and a new bride, and now I love being pregnant. I'm sure I'm going to love motherhood, and all the different phases of it!

    This recipe looks delicious. We always bake bread by hand - my husband looks so cute when he kneads. I'll have to try this one when we can get raisins cheaply.

  26. That bread looks delicious! I'll try it when there's time.
    I thought right that you were making dishcloths. Looking forward to your post about knitting. I'm horrible at it but that frustrates me a lot, so I'm eager to learn!
    I've always heard Corgis are exceptionally smart and very interesting dogs and I really think it would make a great match, you might be a Corgi type. But you'll know it in your heart when and what doggy it will be, I'm sure!

    Christine from the NL

  27. Hi Rhonda
    So sorry to read of Rosie. May your memories of the good times with her ease your loss. It's amazing how dogs become one of the family.
    Just love the cushion your sister made for you. How special that Tricia spent the time & effort in creating it for you.

  28. Rhonda: just to let you know, with rice bags - and i guess, with wheat or oat bags - there is the risk in the long run of fires.. the rice/wheat/oats dry out after repeated microwavings and eventually they start to smoulder. Apparently there have been bed fires caused by people using bags to heat through their beds. The way to stop it happening is to either lightly spritz the bag with water every time you nuke it, or put a cup in with the bag so that the microwave gets full of steam. Either will stop the contents drying out to the point where they're as dry as dust and the fire risk goes up considerably.

    If you knew all this, forgive me, just thought i should mention it..


  29. I found your blog a few weeks ago and I am so thankful that I did.

    I am now in the process of crocheting dish clothes and hot pads. Just loads of them. When we finally get our house built I want to do away with paper towels completely.

    I have learned so much from your blog and am about the same age as you, 58. We retired to a limited income and are building a little house in the woods and will have our gardens started next summer etc. and chickens.

    When I worked, I shopped. Now I am learning that "I am who I am", also. ;o)

    Thanks so much. I look forward to your blog everyday.

  30. Happy Belated Birthday Rhonda Jean.
    Though I read here almost daily, I rarely comment...but today your words were healing. Last week I celebrated my 5oth birthday...which was mostly overlooked by family and friends...but even before the dreaded day, I was overly anxious. Reflecting on my accomplishments, or lack thereof, and thinking about my own mortality became the forefront of daily thought. Reading your post, I realize that I must move on to a better attitude toward my life. "I am what I am!" Thank you so very much...this is exactly what I needed to read today.

  31. Rhonda,
    I am sorry about your lost, a pet is a member of the family. I truly love your blog, I aspire to be you. I stumbled across your page and have been reading for the past few days. Although I am from a large city (Philadelphia, PA-USA) I truly wish I could live a simpler life someday soon. I'll be trying the soap recipies soon. I'll let you know how I make out.

  32. Rhonda, thank you for the reminder about barm brack. I haven't made it since living in Ireland as a teenager (a long time ago, now), but will do so again, now that I have been reminded. You probably know, though maybe some of your readers don't, that barm brack is a traditional All Hallows' Eve (Halloween) treat, and usually has little fortune telling items baked in, like Chiristmas pudding.

    Many thanks for all you do, and for teaching us about it.


  33. Hi, Rhonda
    I noticed that someone mentioned a Welsh Terrier as a possibility if, and when, you start searching for another dog. I finally decided I needed another dog about six months after I lost my blue heeler/border collie mix dog. Well, to make a long story short--I went to one of our animal shelters one Monday morning early and started to walk through the kennel area. Suddenly, my eye caught some movement in the back of a pen and the most beautiful brown eyes looked up at me. At first I thought that he was a Jack Russell mix but have finally figured that he is a Border Terrier mix. Of course, I took him home with me and I've never been sorry for a moment. He is the most mellow dog and he loves to snuggle up to me when I watch the t.v. or sit doing needlework, etc. He doesn't eat a lot so you don't have to worry about over eating like some breeds do. And oh, so intelligent--he picks up things on the floor and gives them to me. I once asked him to go get the dish that had been bumped off the table and he went and got it and brought it to me! I'm sure that some dog will 'find' you. Although that new dog will never replace dear Rosie, he can continue your 'pet' stories through life's journey. Hugs, Aunt Bea
    P.S. Happy Birthday!

  34. The bread sounds lovely, I will have to try it, and the pillow is just beautiful.

  35. Hi Rhonda - I love your site and read it everyday. I have made bread for years but with your inspiration I'm trying different recipes. I have a question for you and all your readers. I have tried all the recipes for laundry soap and dis washer soap and they are disasters! My clothes were not clean and I had an awful ring in my washer. The dishes were coated with white film that I had to scub off. Any ideas? I've tried several recipes? Thanks


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