Barmbrack: Ireland's Traditional Halloween Fruit Bread.
Barmbrack is a yeast bread made with dried fruit that has been soaked in hot tea. It is traditionally served at Halloween in Ireland. Not only is it delicious but it also contains your fortune in the form of symbolic trinkets hidden in the dough. When the Barmbrack was cut, everyone would look to see whose slice contained the golden ring - or, who was destined to be married within the year! Nowadays, Barmbracks are usually baked with a ring inside them but, traditionally, other 'fortunes' included: the Thimble (you will stay a spinster), a Button (you will remain a bachelor), a Bean or a piece of Rag (symbolizing poverty or misfortune), a Silver Coin (riches and wealth); the Stick (is a sign of an unhappy, quarrelsome marriage). All of which makes it sound like a very maudlin, scary bread but it's only a bit of craic or fun as they say at home. Whichever trinkets you include, make sure they are not plastic or reactive. I used a wooden button and a metal thimble, a matchstick with the head snipped off, a white bean, a gold ring, and a silver dime (not a copper coin). This recipe is adapted from two recipes, both by the Irish chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School. I combined the elements I loved from each and tweaked the dried-fruit ingredients to suit my taste. For example, Allen's original recipe calls for candied peel and glacé (Maraschino) cherries, neither of which I like. Instead I used dried cherries and dried blueberries but kept the measurements the same, so you too can adjust as desired. This is a fruit-heavy dish but it is moist and tender, rather than dense. Don't be afraid of the quantity, but feel free to adjust.
What you will need
4 ounces raisins
4 ounces sultanas
4 ounces currants
2 ounces dried cherries
2 ounces dried blueberries
1.5 cups strong, hot black tea (whiskey is also sometimes used)
1 pound all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce unsalted butter
3/4 ounce instant yeast or regular yeast + 1tsp sugar + 1tsp tepid milk
1 large egg, whisked with a fork
1/2 pint "milk + tea" mixture (see #3 below)
"Sugar Glaze" for the top - 1 tablespoon bakers sugar + 1 tablespoon boiling water mixed.
Trinkets such as a gold ring, a thimble, a button, a silver coin (see Author Notes above)