Baking Barm Brack · Oct 22, 10:01 PM

A few weekends ago, Christian suggested that we make barm brack, since Halloween was coming soon.

Huh? Barn Black?” I replied. “What’s that? And what does it have to do with Halloween?”

(I should note that as a multi-cultural couple, we have this type of conversation every few months. They’re occasionally bewildering and/or frustrating, but mostly they’re part of what we enjoy about each other.)

So we Googled it, and predictably found loads of frequently repeated information on the bread’s origin as well as recipes. Briefly, barm brack is a sort of fruit bread made in Ireland, and seems to be associated most strongly with Samhain (Halloween). I think it’s akin to plum pudding, insofar as they both have symbolic coins and whatnot baked in them.

The caveat: I don’t tend to like fruity breads, so I wasn’t willing to make it on my own. When Christian found out that he would have to do some of the work, he became less enthusiastic about the notion. Our Halloween barm brack began to fade away, joining those other nice ideas that one can’t really get up the energy to actually do.

However, today the weather was gray and cold, our apartment was freezing, and I’m hosting a crafts & stitch-’n’-bitch group tomorrow afternoon, meaning I need some kind of snack for my guests. Spending an extended period in the kitchen with the oven on seemed like a brilliant idea! I decided to use the yeast version, ‘cause I’ve made a lot of quick breads of late and although it’s hard on my wrists, yeast doughs are satifsfying to knead and punch down.

Mixing in the soaked dried fruit in this recipe was annoying as hell. I used what I had on hand, which was raisins and apricots – the apricots really became too squishy and made the whole process a slippery mess, unfortunately. (Next time, only raisins and currants, dammit!) Nevertheless, it rose in a satisfactory manner and looks pretty good. On verra…

Postscript: I just pulled it out of the oven and the effing loaf stuck to the pan (I greased it well, I swear, I mean, affirm!). It also looks a little scorched on top; I think it would look better if I had given it a milk or egg glaze. However, the stuck bits that I pulled off the pan don’t taste too bad. Perhaps in another posting I’ll report on my guests’ reviews!

Post-postscript: Yup, it ain’t half bad. I might even make it again!