Sourdough Irish barmbrack is a traditional fruit cake usually served during Halloween. Uniqueness of this bread is dry fruit soaked in tea. Here it is with sourdough starter, dry fruits, and flour.
Little bit history behind Barmbrack?
Barmbrack is an Irish bead, with anglicized word Bairin Breac, which means “speckled loaf” made during Halloween. A yeasted fruit bread that had distinct items baked inside the loaf which signifies different meanings for the lucky (or not so lucky) recipient. It is like fortune telling game if it baked with
A pea indicates that recipient would not marry that year.
A stick is about foretelling of an unhappy marriage.
A cloak or cloth a sign of bad luck or poverty.
A coin indicates that it is good fortune or an impending windfall.
A ring indicates that person would be married within the year.
Normal bracks made with yeast is called "barmbracks" and those that use baking powder and fruit soaked in tea called "tea bracks."
This recipe uses tea-soaked dry fruits as well as sourdough starter instead of yeast or baking powder.
How to make Sourdough Irish Barmbrack?
You need following ingredients to make this delicious Irish Barmbrack.
Sourdough starter : I used 100% hydration sourdough starter.
All purpose flour : Use Unbleached all-purpose flour for better results
Egg : Large egg or two small eggs.
Black tea for soaking dry fruits.
Dry fruits : I used raisins and dried blueberries.
Brown sugar : Sweetener used in this recipe as it give molasses flavor.
Milk : Use whole milk for more flavor.
Salt : Adds flavor to the barmbrack
Mixed spice : (This is British spice made with cinnamon, coriander, all spice, nutmeg, mace, and ground ginger)
Candied orange: Homemade candied orange is used in this recipe . You can use store-bought one too.
See recipe card for quantities.
You need to soak the dry fruits in black tea for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
Once ready to bake bread, drain the tea and use-soaked dry fruits.
In another bowl add flour, spice, salt and mix well and set aside.
Then mix in wet ingredients, milk, water, sourdough starter, sugar, and melted butter.
To this add flour mix, soaked dry fruits, candied orange and mix well.
Once soft supple dough is formed set aside for 4 hours for bulk fermentation.
Then place the dough in refrigerator for overnight proof.
Next morning remove the dough from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature. Shape the dough into loaf and place it in a loaf pan.
Let it rise for another 2-3 hours or until it reaches the rim of the pan.
Then bake and enjoy .
Variations to this sourdough Irish Barmbrack?
Traditionally Barmbrack is made with currants or substituted with blueberries. You can use currants, dried plums, dried dates, raisins, cranberries, jujube, dried apricots, and dried cherries
Instead of sourdough starter you can use yeast . You can also try with yeast and sourdough discard if you want to speed the fermentation rate.
There are recipes using baking powder to make quick tea bracks also.
If you have candied citron, then use that too.
How to Make Mixed Spices
Mixed spice usually comes pre-mixed as a carefully balanced blend. If you have ground spices in hand mix everything. If you don’t have it hand use coffee grinder to powder the spices. Cinnamon, ground all spice, ground nutmeg, ground cloves , ground ginger, ground coriander and ground mace in this ratio. 3 : 2: 2: 1: 1 : 1:0.75
This bread will remain fresh for 4-5 days in room temperature. If you want to store long time, freeze the slices individually wrapped .
Make sourdough starter in the morning : 8:00 AM
Make dough with all ingredients : 1.00 PM
Set aside for bulk fermentation : 5.00 PM
Refrigerate dough for proof overnight : 5.05
Bring the dough room temperature : 8.00 AM
Shape the dough into loaf : 9.00 AM
Let rise the dough until rim: 12.00 PM
Bake : 12.05 PM
If you are using yeast or sourdough discard your fermentation time will be 2-3 hours total.
If you want same day bake you can skip the overnight proof and shape the dough and bake at the same day.
How to serve this Barmbrack?
You can serve with tea with spread of butter on the top.
If you want, you can lightly toast the bread and enjoy.
Sourdough Irish Barmbrack
- 1 tbsp./15g sourdough starter
- ¼ cup /50g all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup / 50g water
For the dough
Soaking dry fruits
- ⅓ cup/44g dried blueberries
- ½ cup / 71g raisins
- ½ cup tea 1 teaspoon loose black tea in ½ cup water
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup / 100g sourdough starter
- ⅓ cup / 76g milk
- 3 tbsp./35g dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- 2 cup / 260g all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp/1g salt
- 2 tbsp./29g melted butter
- 2 tbsp./ 18g candied orange
How to Make Mixed Spice
- 1 tablespoon quality ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoons ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon ground mace
For Soaking dry fruits
- Place the blueberries and raisins in a bowl and pour over the cold tea Let soak for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain and reserve the liquid for later.
- In a small bowl make the starter with 15g sourdough starter, all purpose and water.
- In a stand mixer add starter, milk, egg, brown sugar, melted butter and sugar and mix well to this add flour, spices and stir to combine. Use the dough hook to knead until just combined. The dough will be very thick (do not add more liquid at this point because the wet currants/raisins will be added). Add drained currants and raisins and candied orange peel. Knead until combined, until a soft dough forms. Scrape down the dough from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 4 hours or until it puffs up
- Set aside in refrigerator for overnight proof. Next morning remove the dough and bring to room temperature.
- Punch down the dough. If making two smaller loaves, divide the dough in half and shape into rounds. If making one large loaf (as pictured), place the dough in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.
- Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for another hour or longer until nearly doubled in size. It takes about 3 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F ( 180 C)
- Bake the barmbrack on the middle rack for 45- 50 minutes (less if making two smaller loaves) or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and while hot brush the loaf with the reserved currant/raisins juice for more flavor, moistness and a nice sheen and let cool.
- Slice and serve. Barmbrack is especially good toasted and spread with butter.
How to Make Mixed Spice
- Combine all spices in an airtight glass jar and keep store in a dark cool place for up to several months.
- Makes about ¼ cup of Mixed Spice.
This is Swathi ( Dr. Ambujom Saraswathy Ph.D) from Zesty South Indian Kitchen who loves to explore cuisines from all over the world. Whenever possible I try to to give an Indian touch to several of the world cuisine, and has weakness for freshly baked bread. All the recipes you see here are created by me and approved after taste-test by my family.