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.
Additional 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.
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 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 Tbsp white sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
- 4 Tbsp butter, cold, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 Tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp 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.
Nutritional information provided for general guidance only and should not be relied upon to make personal health decisions.