I love Brack. I should be invited onto TV shows and write “More Brack is the answer” and “Make Brack nor War” articles for magazines and newspapers. I should set up the Brack Appreciation Society and be president. I love the fact that Halloween seems to start in July in the shops if it means I can eat brack. Always Barmbrack in our house, some people (my daughters teacher being one of them) calls this by its Irish name – “Báirín Breac” or “speckled loaf” due to the way it is dotted with raisins. It is eaten traditionally at Halloween (July to December in Ireland in recent times, end of October when I was growing up). The tradition was to add a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a coin, and a ring to the cake mixture . Each item had a special significance for the person who discovered it in their slice of cake. The person who received the pea wouldn’t marry that year, the stick meant an unhappy marriage, the cloth indicated poverty and the coin riches, while the person who found the ring would wed within the year. Nowadays it’s usually just a ring that’s added to the batter of bought brack. I have my favourites and bracks I detest and would never buy. And then I discovered how easy it is to bake brack. And the bonus is it is actually my favourite brack of all – remember I’m a brack expert. Its one of Darina Allen’s (slightly adapted).
This recipe makes two bracks (you have the oven on anyway and will feel very smug either freezing a brack or gifting a fresh homemade brack to someone)
400g (14 oz) dried fruit, raisins and sultanas
50g (2 oz) cherries 50g
(2 oz) chopped candied peel
110g (4 oz) soft brown sugar 110g (4 oz)
granulated sugar 450g
(15 fl oz) tea
400g (14 oz) plain white flour
1/8 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 egg, free-range
2 tins 25.5 x 38 x 6.5cm deep (5 x 8 x 21/2 inch deep)
- Put raisins and sultanas into a bowl, cover with tea and leave overnight to allow the fruit to plump up. (I have often soaked them from morning till after lunch and it seems fine to me, if you can remember to soak over night, do)
- Next day add the halved cherries, chopped candied peel, sugar and egg and mix well.
- Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in thoroughly. The mixture should be softish, add a little more tea if necessary 50ml (2 fl oz).
- Grease the tins with melted butter or simply line with baking parchment. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 1 hour. Leave in the tins for about 10 minutes and then remove and cool on a wire rack.
- Serve with “a nice cup of tea*”, obviously!
*I am also a “nice cup of tea” expert.