All Hallows' Eve Barmbrack
I'm not a big fan of Halloween, mainly the mass marketed, commercialised version of it in the shops. Also, it's not something we celebrated growing up at home, and at this time of year Bonfire Night was the main event on the calendar, especially as 5th November was also my grandmother's birthday. However, one tradition for Halloween that I am a fan of is Barmbrack, and this year I thought I would try making my own.
The origins of Halloween as an festival seem to come from the Celtic Harvest Festival of Samhain, which then mixed with Christian tradition of marking the eve of All Hallows' or All Saints' Day on November 1st.
Barmbrack is the traditional fruit bread served in Ireland on All Hallows' Eve.
Barm comes from the old English work beorma, meaning yeasty fermented liquor and Brack comes from the Irish word breac, meaning speckled and refers to the fruit and mix peel kneaded into the dough.
Traditional, various items are hidden in the brack when it is made, and finding one of theses in your slice will foretell your future for the coming year. A ring, for marriage, a coin, for wealth, and a thimble to indicate an unmarried women.
I thought the latter was a bit harsh, so I didn't include the thimble, and I don't have a ring, so there is just a coin hidden in my dough. As none of my baking books included a recipe for Barmbrack, I used Zack Gallagher's recipe from his Irish Food Guide Blog. The recipe was easy to follow, and the result was very successful, it rose well and the crumb is light and sweet. I made mine in a round tin, as this is how the ones I've seen have been shaped.
I've not managed to find the coin yet, but then neither has anyone else, so I might still get to make my fortune this year!