Barmbrack Recipe

image of sliced barmbrack loaf

Barmbrack is a popular Irish fruit bread that’s usually consumed around Halloween.  It is also widely known as Barnbrack, and Bairín Breac.  The loaf could be quite large and would be used in a fortune telling game of which there are many variants. 

Usually a series of items were baked into the loaf.  It was then evenly sliced and whichever item was received in your slice was a glimpse into your future.  Some common items and their fortunes were: A ring for love and marriage, a twig for a year of dispute, a coin for good fortune, or a piece of cloth for bad luck.

Today the only item typically used today would be the ring, indicating marriage to the lucky recipient.  Just be careful when you bite into a slice of barmbrack.  You may gain a spouse but you may also lose a tooth!


  • Strong black tea - 2 cups
  • Dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants, etc.) - 2 cups
  • Milk, lukewarm - 1 cup
  • Active dry yeast - 1 (1/4-ounce) package
  • Sugar - 2 teaspoons
  • Flour - 3 to 3 1/2 cups
  • Sugar - 1/4 cup
  • Ground cinnamon - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ground cloves - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Nutmeg - 1/4 teaspoon
  • Egg, beaten - 1
  • Butter, unsalted, softened - 1/3 cup
  • Salt - 1 teaspoon



  • Place the tea and dried fruit in a bowl and let soak for at least one hour, preferably overnight.
  • Mix the yeast, warm milk and 2 teaspoons of sugar together in a small bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
  • In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and spices. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, beaten egg, butter and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and bring the dough together. Add a little more flour if the dough is too wet or a little more milk if it is too dry.
  • Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead until the dough is smooth but still a little sticky.
  • Drain the dried fruit and knead a little at a time into the dough until all the fruit has been incorporated.
  • Remove the dough to a large, lightly buttered bowl. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm corner until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and punch down to deflate. Knead lightly for 2 to 3 minutes. Form into a ball and placed in a buttered 8-inch cake pan. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in size, about an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove to a rack and cool.
  • Serve with a spread of butter and a cup of tea!
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