Every country in the British Isles has its own fruitcake, whether for celebrations or for tea time treats. In Ireland, the fruitcake of choice is a Barmbrack. This lovely moreish cake is also known as Barm Brack or sometimes, simply as Brack. Everyone knows what it means, as it is one of their most famous bakery products. The Gaelic name is báirín breac, or ‘speckled loaf,’ referring to the speckles of fruit in the cake.
Traditionally, Brack is eaten at Halloween and as part of your St Patrick's Day celebrations. At Halloween, custom has it to bake small objects into the cake, acting as a kind of fortune telling. Nowadays, more often than not, it will be a ring. Tthe finding of which delights the unmarried as it purports they will be the next to walk down the aisle.
Brack is also eaten year-round simply as a delicious treat at tea time when it is served with lovely, salty Irish butter.
- 1 tablespoon dried yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water (lukewarm)
- 1/4 cup sugar (plus 1 teaspoon)
- 5 cups plain flour
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup mixed candied peel
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- Place the yeast in the lukewarm water, add the teaspoon of sugar, stir and leave to one side.
- Put the flour into a large roomy, baking bowl and add the butter and salt.
- Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour to form sand-like crumbs. Work quickly to prevent the butter becoming too warm.
- Add the peel, raisins, and the sugar to the flour mixture and stir.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture.
- Work the mixture together to form a soft dough.
- Knead the dough on a floured worktop for 10 minutes until smooth and pliable.
- Place the dough back into the bowl. Cover with a clean tea cloth and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size - about 1 hour.
- Return the mixture to the worktop and divide in two.
- Knead each half for another few minutes then form into two rounds, each approximately 7 inches in diameter.
- Place on a greased baking sheet and leave to rise for another hour.
- Heat the oven to 400 F/ /200 C/Gas 6.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a rack.
- The cake is lovely to eat straight away, but it can be stored in a cake tin, wrapped with a little greaseproof paper if needed.
- Should there be any cake after a few days, it toasts well, but it is doubtful there will be.