29 October 2012

Halloween Barmbrack

In the new world regime of Cakes and Cardies, the world of actual blogging, the world of writing about, well, cakes and cardies I give you the Halloween Barmbrack.
Have you noticed that Halloween has become a "thing" in the last few years? Every shop has a Halloween display, selling Halloween merchandise and generally making it a "thing". Add to that the Americanisation of Halloween with trick or treating and we have a whole holiday around this one day.
When I was growing up in Dublin Halloween was just on the day. There was dressing up, Halloween games (apple bobbing, taking bites out of an apple suspended from something with your hands behind your back etc) and all on 31st October, one day. In our house there was also Barmbrack. This is a fruit bread/cake that has certain items concealed in the bake that are supposed to tell your fortune. The pea (you will not marry within the year), the stick (you will have bad luck), the coin (you will get rich) and the ring (you will get married within the year. These are all wrapped in greasproof paper and added in to the dough before the last rise. My mother made one every Halloween and we loved searching for the items, no-one wanted to get the pea or the stick everyone wanted the money or the ring, of course. My mother's Barmbrack was more of a Tea Brack rather than the yeasted Barmbrack of tradition but in a way it wasn't about the cake, it was about what you found!
Given all this nostalgia I decided to tackle the Barmbrack for the first time and I chose a recipe from a Darina Allen cookbook that I have (a veritable bible of all things Irish cookery). The recipe is very similar to the Pannetone and Colomba (the Italian Christmas and Easter cakes). It is a yeasted sweet dough with a small amount of butter, an egg and milk is used as the liquid instead of water. There are sultanas, currants and candied peel added at the end of the kneading.
When I was making it yesterday I thought I had buggered it up as it didn't rise hugely on the first prove but when I baked it it rose beautifully. When it comes out of the oven you brush it with a bun wash (a sugar syrup) which gives a a lovely shiny glaze.
I brought it into work today but I couldn't resist trying a slice (or two) last night and we managed to find most of the money in the quarter that we had! Oh well all the bad luck left the house!! This morning one of my friends at work described it as a giant hot cross bun, which isn't far off.

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