Food Swings: Barm Brack
By Patrick Lynn
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! My aunt tried to teach me to speak Gaelic when I was younger. It didn’t take very well- it’s a very difficult language to grasp and I never learned much. But when it came to St. Patrick’s Day- er, excuse me- St. Paddy’s Day- I always knew “barm brack” meant “speckled bread”.
And what a delicious speckled bread. My aunt made this during every holiday on the calendar as well as weddings, baptisms and first communions. This can be made in a loaf pan or a round cake pan, and about 15 minutes before the loaf is done baking, my aunt always brushed a bit of whisked egg white along the top before she sprinkled it with sugar.
You will need:
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons easy blend yeast
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup dried fruit: raisins, currants, cranberries or blueberries
¼ cup orange zest
1 ¼ cup of warm strong tea
1 egg white, whisked + 1 tablespoon sugar
Soak dried fruit into warm tea for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 450.
In a large bowl, mix flour and butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in sugar and yeast, then add ginger and nutmeg and orange zest. Gradually work in tea and fruit mixture; knead. You can use a bread machine for the kneading; but do not allow to bake in the machine.
Once the dough forms a ball; place on a lightly- floured board
Knead on a lightly floured board for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place dough into one round cake pan; two bread loaf pans or shape into a large round and place on a greased cookie sheet.
Cover with a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap; allow dough to double in size.
Bake for 8 – 15 minutes at 450; then reduce the oven temperature to 400 for an additional 10 minutes. Then remove from over and brush with whisked egg white. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over egg white.
Return to oven for additional 10 minutes, or until golden. The loaf will sound hollow when tapped.