The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.53
SUMMER2017

Barm Brack

Barm Brack, along with soda bread, is the bread or cake (it seems a hybrid) we most associate with Ireland. The recipe from All in the Cooking is authentic and appealing.


  • bread-cut-by-girl007.gif½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ oz sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons hot water
  • ¾ oz fresh yeast or ½ dried
  • about 10 oz milk
  • 1 lb flour
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon powdered clove
  • ¼ teaspoon mace or nutmeg
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • a beaten egg
  • ½ lb raisins (aka sultanas)
  • 2 oz chopped mixed candied peel
  • butter for greasing a cake pan
  • another teaspoon sugar dissolved in a Tablespoon of warm water

  1. Dissolve the salt and sugar in the hot water.
  2. Allow the solution to cool to lukewarm (about 90-105 degrees if you have a candy thermometer; anything cooler will deactivate the yeast; anything warmer may kill it).
  3. Meanwhile scald the milk and let it cool.

Preheat the oven to 450˚.

  1. Sift the flour into a big bowl, knead the butter into it, dig a well in the center of the mix, pour in the yeast solution, then the egg followed by just enough tepid water (again, take care not to kill the yeast) to form a stiff batter.
  2. Beat the batter with the hook of a countertop KitchenAid if you have one, or a wooden spoon (laborious) if you do not, until the batter forms a uniform, elastic dough.
  3. Mix the fruit into the dough into the greased pan, cover it with a cloth and leave it to rise in a warmish spot until it doubles in size, usually in about an hour.
  4. Bake the brack for 5 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and bake it for about 45 more minutes.
  5. Brush the sugar solution over the brack and return it to the oven for a few seconds so the solution sets.

Notes:

-All in the Cooking, forever frugal, omits the spice and calls for margarine instead of butter. It will make a good brack but it is not healthy.

-Nor did the readers of the book when it appeared in the Ireland of 1946 have access to countertop mixers, so the spoon was their only option. All in figures it would require seven minutes to beat the batter into dough, but that sounds like false precision to us.

-A number of modern recipes substitute marmalade or citrus zest for the candied peel but we like the Old School version.

-If you like, use a mix of currants, and black and golden raisins.

-The brack will be a little richer if you mix the yeast with milk; some recipes call for tea.

-Barm brack is derived from the Gaelic for ‘speckled cake.’ It is excellent hot or cold smeared with good butter, and accompanied by a pint of porter or ball of malt.