Forget pumpkin spice late or caramel corn. What about honoring Halloween with barmbrack, a speckled bread, and a traditional Irish Halloween treat that tells you the future?
Wondering how? Halloween in Ireland is celebrated with a special bread that foretells the future. Want to know if you are getting married? Or perhaps you want to know whether this is a good year for business? Just get a slice to find out.
In summary, Halloween celebrated every October 31st, originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain (Sawh-en). The celebration marked the arrival of a new Celtic year. Similarly to what we do on December 31st, ancient Irish had traditions and superstitions to have a great new year. As you may have guessed, eating barmbrack was part of their fortune-telling rituals.
What is barmbrack, and how do we make it?
The Halloween Barmbrack (Irish: báirín breac) is a yeast bread made of flour, yeast, eggs, butter, milk, dried fruit, candied peels, spices, and sugar. “Barm” derivates from old English and means yeasty fermented liquor. “Brack” originates from Irish and means speckled. So, in summary, barmbrack is a speckled cake made with fermented yeast, which is similar to the Welsh bara brith.
People often mistake barmbrack for Irish tea bracks, but they slightly different. Tea bracks use baking powder and tea-soaked fruit, while barmbracks take yeast.
But that’s not all. A Halloween brack is incomplete without the distinctive objects we bake in it: peas, coins, matchsticks, rags, and rings. These objects add more fun, and fortune tells how lucky we’ll be next year.
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How should you eat the cake?
That is the fun part. The family members should share the cake on the night of Halloween. Each person gets a slice of the bread, hoping to find one of the “hidden” objects.
Find a pea, and you’ll not find love for the next 12 months. Uncover a coin, and you’ll have abundance and fortune in the year ahead. Find a piece of cloth and will have a restrained financial year.
Now, find a matchstick and be ready to have a turbulent love life for the forthcoming year. But if you find a ring, congratulations, you will be married before the year ends.
How to make Irish barmbrack
Now that you know a little more about this traditional Halloween treat, what about adventure yourself in the kitchen? Make one barmbrack for your family this year. It would be a great way to enjoy the day while incrementing Irish traditions to your Halloween rituals.
As you may know, recipes can vary depending on region and cooks. Barmbrack is no different, recipes vary, and some take yeast (the original recipe), while others use baking soda to raise the dough. In this recipe, we’ll use baking soda, as it is easier and gives the same result as yeast.
Irish Halloween barmbrack recipe
- 225g plain flour
- 2 tbps of baking powder
- 375g packet mixture of golden raisins, raisins and dried currants
- 250ml cold tea
- 50ml of whiskey
- 125g light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp of mixed spice
- Trinkets: A coin, a ring, a matchstick, a dried pea, and a rag.
Struggling with volume conversion? Check this chart conversion chart.
- Add the dried fruits, the whiskey, and the tea into a bowl and let it soak overnight. The next day you’ll find that the fruit will soak up most of the liquid and become plumpy. Drain it and keep the excess liquid for later.
- Preheat the oven to 170C/340°, and line up a greased loaf pan.
- Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix it until well combined. Then add the beaten egg to the mix and work on the dough.
- Add small amounts of the leftover liquid (reserved from the dried fruit soaking) into the mixture until you get a somewhat wet dough, and then add the dried fruit. Mix it until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Wrap the trinkets with parchment paper and add them to the dough, then transfer the dough into the lined loaf pan.
- Place dough into the oven on the middle shelf, bake it for an hour, then remove it from the oven and let it cool down before transferring the bread onto a wire rack.
How to serve your Irish Halloween Barmbrack:
Barmbrack is excellent when served with a hot cup of tea. Also, try spreading it with a generous layer of Irish butter, marmalade, or both. To let the fun begin, gather the family around the table, slice it up and find out who will have good fortune in the coming year.
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To wrap it up
Halloween is a fun celebration, and a few old Irish traditions can make it much more exciting. Gather your trinkets, bake your barm brack, and enjoy it with your family and friends.
Jeweler tip: if you are planning to propose or mark the occasion, browse our collection of Claddagh rings and pick to surprise your loved one. Make sure to remark the area of the bread where the ring is hidden.
Barmbrack Ring Ideas
Explore our collections of mystical and symbolic men’s jewelry.