Making Barmbrack

12 August 2008
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.