Giving a nod to the Irish with this traditional Irish Barmbrack. This yeast bread is filled with tea-soaked raisins and finished with a swipe of homemade, sweet honey butter.
Irish Barmbrack is traditionally served at Halloween. I think it’s too good to only enjoy one time per year. I don’t think they’d mind if we all just enjoyed it year round.
This rustic bread is baked as one large round loaf and is filled with raisins that have been soaked in tea overnight (hence the “tea brack” name”. The result is a lovely, lightly sweet and fruity bread that is great eaten out of hand or especially nice toasted. The optional sweet, honey butter compliments this bread perfectly and is so easy to mix up at home.
- Raisins – A mixture of raisins is nice with this bread. I used 1 cup sultanas, 1/2 cup golden raisins and 1/2 cup green raisins.
- Brewed black tea – Black tea is the tea you generally think of as “tea”. It’s the Orange Pekoe. It’s most of the teas at the store that aren’t herbal or green.
- All-purpose flour – I prefer unbleached all-purpose flour for all my breads.
- Dry active yeast or regular Instant Yeast – quick or rapid rising yeast is not recommended.
My Best Tips for Baking Yeast Breads
I think most problems people have with baking with yeast, is treating yeast-based recipes like say, a cake recipe, where you just add all the ingredients together, mix together and bake.
Yeast bread recipes aren’t and just can’t be that precise. Things like temperature, moisture in the flour your are using, the season your are baking in and rising time that can differ from one kitchen to the next, make yeast recipes less consistent from one kitchen to the next.
Now that you know this though, that’s more than half the battle :) Just trust what you see, how the dough feels and how much it has grown in size as it rises (rather than the clock) and it will all be good!
- Be careful with the temperature of your proofing liquid before adding the yeast, so you don’t compromise the yeast from the start. If the liquid is too cold, the yeast won’t activate. Too hot and it will die. The best temperature range for proofing liquid is 105-110F for Active Dry Yeast.
- Always treat the amount of flour specified in yeast-based recipes as “approximate”. Flours will vary from kitchen to kitchen and by season, so the amount needed to make a smooth, soft dough will vary.
- Given tip #2, I always hold back 1/4-1/3 of the flour specified in a recipe and add in only as much as is needed. If you dump all the flour in at the start, you may find that it is too much and it’s difficult to adjust well after that.
- Use a large glass measuring cup to proof the dough. The markings on the side make it easy to see when the dough has doubled.
- Be patient. Rising times are also “approximate” and will vary as well. Trust what you see and not the clock.
More Baking Tips
Be sure to check the loaf around the 20 minute mark of baking and if nicely browned, loosely cover the top with tin foil for the last bit of baking, so the loaf doesn’t get too brown on top.
I baked my bread in my cast iron skillet, which I would highly recommend, if you have one. Mine is 8-inches in diameter on the bottom/10-inches in diameter across the top. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, any oven-proof round baking pan around 9 inches will work.
Get the Recipe: Traditional Irish Barmbrack Bread with Honey Butter
- 2 cups raisins, I used 1 cup sultanas, 1/2 cup golden raisins and 1/2 cup green raisins
- 2 cups strong brewed black tea
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons white sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 4 Tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 Tablespoon salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon liquid honey
- Brew 2 cups of hot tea and allow to cool to lukewarm. Add tea to a a medium glass bowl. Add the raisins, stir and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Leave to soak on the counter overnight.
- In a small bowl, combine the dry active yeast with 1/4 cup lukewarm water (about 110F) and set aside to proof while you proceed with the recipe.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, nutmeg, salt and sugar. With a pastry cutter or your fingers (or with the paddle attachment on your mixer), work in the butter in to the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.
- Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave, heat the milk to 110°F. Beat the egg into the milk and then stir into the dry ingredients. Add the proofed yeast mixture, as well. Mix well with a wooden spoon or switch to the kneading hook on a stand mixer. Knead by hand or with the kneading hook until dough starts to come together (adding more flour in small increments, as necessary). Drain the raisins and add to the dough. (I find a sprinkling of flour on to the raisins help them to incorporate in to the dough more easily). Knead in the raisins, adding a bit more flour as necessary, until you have a smooth dough that is not sticky.
- Remove dough to a large greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size.
- Grease an 10-inch (top diameter) cast-iron skillet or 9-inch round baking pan and pre-heat oven to 400° F.
- Turn risen dough out on to a floured surface. Press lightly to de-gas, then form in to a round by pinching the dough underneath. Place dough round in to prepared pan. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise until puffy, about 30 minutes more.
- Bake in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, then check the bread. If it is nicely browned, cover top loosely with a piece of tinfoil, then continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes or so, or until an internal temperature of about 195°F. about 35-40 Let cool completely before cutting into slices. Serve spread with butter or honey butter.
- For honey butter: combine ingredients in a small bowl and stir vigorously until well combined.
Just had my first slice of bread and honey butter. SO DELICIOUS. This is my second time making bread, ever. The directions were easy to follow. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
So glad to hear, Susan! I love this bread and make it often throughout the year, too. Thanks so much :)
Watch out! You cannot stop at just one slice! A big hit with all in the family!
So glad to hear :) Thanks so much!
Hi, Jennifer! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I am letting the dough rise now and excited to try it. One question – is the dough supposed to be more like a batter or a bread dough? I think I may’ve added too much flour if it’s supposed to be cake-like. Thanks!
Hi Melanie and no worries, I think you’re good. It should be a pretty standard yeast dough and definitely not batter-like. Enjoy!
I am a little confused with the instructions. It says to add the yeast and then later it says to add the proofed yeast. Did I misread this? Do you mean clarifying please? I am soaking my raisins in a cinnamon apple tea (I don’t drink black or green tea). I am looking forward to making this tomorrow.
Hi Bonnie and sorry, yes that is confusing. I use instant yeast personally, which I don’t proof, so my instructions sometimes end up a hybrid of the two methods. I have correct the instructions so they should be more clear now :) Thanks!
Sounds delish! I will have to try it.
It’s really great bread, Erin. A must-try if you are a raisin bread fan!
The texture of your loaf here looks wonderful! Can’t wait to try my own :)
I definitely recommend Sophie! Especially if you are a raisin bread lover. Lots of raisins in this one :)
I made this bread over the weekend and found that two cups of raisins is a great plenty. After slicing I made french toast for breakfast placing a cream cheese layer with raspberry jam on top; it was delicious. I did bake this in my cast iron skillet — how do you keep the bottom of the bread from getting so dark, almost burnt when you use the cast iron? I covered the top as instructed.
Hi CJ! Love the sound of your French Toast. I was hoping to have some left for French Toast or bread pudding, but my husband made short work of my loaf!
As for the bottom browning too much in the skillet, I don’t seem to have that problem myself. I certainly had a top-browning issue, but covering worked well. Maybe move your rack up one level?
Tea-soaked raisins? Honey butter? I want in on this.
You would love it, Sarah! The honey butter would be nice with your Irish Soda Bread, too :)
I am not even a teensy bit Irish but Irish bread…come on…who doesn’t love it-easy and delicious! I love the tea-soaked raisins and can’t wait to try out this beautiful recipe!
Thanks :) It’s very addicting bread, Julia (especially toasted!)
I would absolutely devour this bread and I love the side of honey butter!
Thanks Laura. The honey butter is perfect with this bread!
I’ve never heard of a barmbrack bread before.. but I sure do love spiced breads so this is a must make recipe for me!
I’m sure you’d love this, Thalia! :)
I need some more Irish luck in my life, and this bread is just the ticket! What a delight!
Thanks Katrina. I think so! :)
This bread looks beautiful! I’ve only made irish soda bread, I’m going to definitely have to try this barmbrack bread. Nothing beats homemade bread!
This bread was delicious, Jessica. I love it toasted, with melted butter. Heaven!