Irish Barmbrack Recipe for Halloween

Every Halloween growing up in Ireland, my Mum would buy a Barmbrack a type of sweetened Tea Bread made with yeast from Bewley’s Cafe and Bakery. My sister and I would always be excited about who was going to receive the slice with the imitation “gold” ring { I think Bewleys used to place some real gold wedding bands in a limited number of Bracks} which meant there was going to be a marriage in your future!. A few years ago I started making a Brack at Halloween for my family, and while experimenting with different recipes, I discovered much to my surprise that in the past people would bake as many as five or so small tokens into the Brack and not all of them had cheery predictions for ones’ future!

  • A pea meant the person would remain unwed.
  • A stick meant an unhappy marriage.
  • A piece of cloth meant poverty.
  • A small coin originally a silver sixpence meant wealth.
  • A ring meant a marriage within the year.

I decided to use an old well washed Irish penny for our token which thankfully is large as you can see in the below photograph and therefore is easy to wrap up in parchment paper and be found in the cake as you don’t want any choking accidents to occur. Barmbrack in Gaelic is Bairin Breic a speckled loaf as it is dotted with lots of raisins.



  • Strong black Barry’s Tea or any good tea approximately 1 cup
  • 2 cups {250 g} 8 oz of mixed dried fruit {raisins, currants, sultanas}
  • 1 tablespoon of candied peel
  • 1/4 cup {4 fluid ounces} of warm milk approximately sometimes it requires more or less as it depends on how well the dried fruit has absorbed the tea, so add the milk gradually to be on the safe side
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of yeast or 1 packet will do
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups {1 pound} 475 g Bread or Strong White Flour if you don’t have this type Plain/All Purpose will also do
  • 1 teaspoon salt {I use 1/2 teaspoon as I used salted butter}
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves if you don’t have these spices you can use 1 teaspoon of mixed spice or all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
  • 1 beaten large egg at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup {2 oz} 50 g Kerrygold Irish Salted butter or Unsalted butter if you prefer which is also at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup {50 g} 2 oz Sugar


Soak the mixed fruit and candied peel in the tea overnight if you have time. I like to activate the yeast with 1 teaspoon of sugar in the warm milk. While I wait for the yeast to froth up I sieve the flour, salt and spices together.

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I add the chopped up butter to the flour mixture and chop up until it resembles fine breadcrumbs a potato masher or fork makes this step a lot easier. Then mix in the sugar. Afterwards I add the drained dried fruit {some recipes suggest kneading the fruit into the dough but I find it easier to combine when dry} I have tried both ways and it doesn’t alter the taste of the Brack so try which ever method feels more comfortable to you.

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Then mix in the milk and most of the beaten egg { I keep back a little which I  mix with a drop of milk to brush on the Brack before it goes into the oven to give it a nice golden colour} mix till all is combined, turn out onto a counter with a light dusting of flour and knead for a few minutes as if you were making bread. I transfer the dough back into the bowl I just used after I lightly grease it with some butter. I cover it with a damp clean tea towel until it rises which takes approximately 1 hour.

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After it has risen transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead again for a few minutes. Sometimes I bake the brack on a greased baking sheet or on a pizza stone.When using the stone; I cut out a 14″ circle of parchment paper which  I place on a pizza peel before placing the dough on top, this makes it easier to transfer onto the preheated stone. I turn the Brack over and hide the wrapped up coin in the middle and then I place it back on the peel right side up. You can also use a large baking sheet or cake tin. There is enough to make two small Bracks if you prefer as they freeze well. Then cover with a clean cloth/tea towel and let rise for approximately 1 hour. If using a stone the Brack will need a shorter baking time {perhaps 5 or 10 minutes less} and sometimes a slightly lower temperature depending on your oven.

Preheat oven with pizza stone if using to 400F or Gas mark 6. The loaf takes approximately 30 minutes however check at 25 minutes. When done the underneath will have a hollow sound when you tap it gently.

While the Brack is baking your kitchen will fill with the lovely smell of the mixed spices. Let the Brack cool down on a wire wrack before spreading with some Kerrygold Irish butter if you have it or any good butter will do and a nice cup ofTea.The Brack is also delish when toasted.


Wishing you all a Happy Halloween or Oiche Shamhna Shona Daoibh in Gaelic.

This entry was published on October 28, 2015 at 8:10 pm. It’s filed under #Barmbrack recipe and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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