How to Make Traditional Irish Barmbrack

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish bread that is enjoyed during Halloween and other special occasions. It is a sweet and spiced bread made with raisins and other dried fruits, and it is typically served with a spread of butter or jam. This article will take you through the steps of making a delicious Irish Barmbrack recipe, so you can enjoy this tasty bread at home.

What is Barmbrack?

Barmbrack, also known as Bairín Breac in Irish, is a sweet and spiced bread made with dried fruits, such as raisins, sultanas, and candied peel. The bread is typically served sliced and spread with butter or jam. Barmbrack is traditionally eaten during Halloween, but it can also be enjoyed on other special occasions.

History of Barmbrack

Barmbrack has a long history in Ireland, dating back to the early 17th century. It was originally made using barm, which is the frothy yeast that forms on top of beer during the brewing process. However, modern Barmbrack recipes typically use commercial yeast or baking powder. The bread was traditionally baked with small items hidden inside, such as a coin, a ring, or a pea. It was believed that whoever found the item in their slice of bread would have good luck or bad luck in the coming year.

Ingredients of Irish Barmbrack Recipe

  • 250g of mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, and candied peel)
  • 250ml of black tea
  • 200g of caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 300g of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • A pinch of salt


  • A large mixing bowl
  • A measuring jug
  • A wooden spoon
  • A 2lb loaf tin
  • Baking paper
  • A cooling rack

Instructions for making Barmbrack

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper.
  • Put the mixed dried fruit into a large mixing bowl, add the hot black tea, and mix well.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes, or until the fruit is plump and juicy.
  • Add the caster sugar and beaten eggs to the bowl and mix well.
  • Sift the plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg, and salt into the bowl and mix until everything is well combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
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Tips for making the perfect Irish Barmbrack

Irish Barmbrack is a traditional Irish sweet bread that is typically served during Halloween. Here are some tips for making the perfect Irish Barmbrack:

  • Soak the dried fruit: The dried fruit used in Barmbrack should be soaked in tea or orange juice overnight. This will help to plump up the fruit and give it a more intense flavor.
  • Use strong tea: When soaking the fruit, use a strong tea like Irish Breakfast or Assam to give the bread a robust flavor.
  • Use mixed dried fruit: Barmbrack traditionally contains a mixture of dried fruit, such as raisins, currants, sultanas, and candied peel. Make sure to use a good quality mix of fruit for the best flavor.
  • Add spices: Barmbrack typically contains spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Be sure to add these in moderation to avoid overpowering the flavor of the fruit.
  • Use treacle or molasses: Treacle or molasses are often used in Barmbrack to give it a darker color and richer flavor.
  • Let it rest: After baking, let the Barmbrack rest for at least a day before slicing and serving. This will allow the flavors to develop and the bread to become more moist.
  • Serve with butter: Barmbrack is traditionally served with butter, so be sure to have some on hand when serving.

Serving suggestions Irish Barmbrack

Irish Barmbrack is a delicious sweet bread that is traditionally served during Halloween in Ireland. Here are some serving suggestions for your Barmbrack:

  • Toasted with butter: Toast slices of Barmbrack and spread with butter for a simple and delicious breakfast or snack.
  • Served with jam: Barmbrack goes well with a variety of jams, such as raspberry or strawberry.
  • Topped with cream cheese: Spread cream cheese on top of sliced Barmbrack for a tangy and creamy contrast.
  • Paired with tea: Barmbrack is often served with a cup of tea or coffee, making it a perfect afternoon snack.
  • Served with custard: Warm up slices of Barmbrack and serve with a dollop of custard for a comforting dessert.
  • Used in a bread pudding: Leftover Barmbrack can be used in a bread pudding, which is a popular dessert in Ireland.

Variations of Irish Barmbrack

Here are a few variations of Irish Barmbrack that you might enjoy:

  • Chocolate Barmbrack: Add some cocoa powder to the recipe to give the bread a chocolatey flavor.
  • Ginger Barmbrack: Add some chopped crystallized ginger to the recipe to give the bread a spicy kick.
  • Apple Barmbrack: Add chopped apples to the recipe to give the bread a fresh, fruity flavor.
  • Nut Barmbrack: Add chopped nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, to the recipe for a crunchy texture.
  • Whiskey Barmbrack: Soak the dried fruits in whiskey instead of tea for a boozy twist on the traditional recipe.
  • Orange Barmbrack: Add some orange zest to the recipe to give the bread a citrusy flavor.
  • Cranberry Barmbrack: Replace some of the raisins or currants with dried cranberries for a tart twist on the traditional recipe.

Read Also: Sweet Potato Breakfast Bake

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