13 August 2012

Barm Brack and Honey Butter

This is barm brack, an Irish dried fruit loaf that resembles Panettone when it's baked in a nice deep casserole. SB and I call it poor man's panettone. It doesn't have all the eggs and citron fruit, but it does have currants, and golden raisins, and dried cranberries (my idea).  It is infinitely better than Irish soda bread - it's a yeast bread, after all and not a quick bread.

My recipe for this bread came from a new cookbook that I found when digging around for a good colcannon recipe ... our potatoes have come in and there's pretty cabbage at farmer's market so I was thinking and Irish feast might be in order. Anyway, I found this book called Irish Pub Cooking and when I leafed though it, I found so many good recipes --- this bread being one of them.

Today was the perfect day to putter around the house. It's sunny and the humidity isn't quite so bad, as we have had three days of torrential thunderstorms. The heavens can't possible have any more rain to give right a way! During these past storms, though, the electricity surged and knocked out the Internet connection. This morning, the yard was a wet mess and so were the dogs when they trooped into the house and flopped on the kitchen floor, the husband deserted ship to go for a bike ride, just in case it decided to rain again later, and I was left feeling like the drudge.

There was nothing left to do except clean up the dogs, run the vacuum cleaner and mop the floors, do a wash of all the dirty towels and such,  hang the laundry on the sunny back porch, and make this bread to 'beat up on the fates' so to speak. Kneading bread is cathartic, don't you think?

By the time the Internet guy returned my phone call and helped me get back on-line, the dough was ready for the oven. By the time SB returned from his ride the kitchen smelled wonderful, the floors were spotless, the dogs were drying off in the sun on the terrace, and my mood had improved. By the time the laundry was folded and I'd bitched at SB to take his shoes off at the door, I could sweeten my rant by giving him a slice of bread and honey butter. All is forgiven ... now if the dogs could just take their feet off at the door ... I suppose that's asking a bit much.

Back to this bread ... I have fallen for baking breads in my pottery casseroles. The casseroles help round loaves hold their shape instead of spreading out and making flat round loaves. Just look at how the dough rises right up and out of this casserole - it's a two quart size, by the way.

Another tip on this bread, mix the dried fruit together and squish the butter into the fruit. This serves two purposes. The buter greases the baking dish and the butter gets evenly distributed over the fruit and hence through the bread dough when you knead the fruit into the dough before the second rise. Easy, huh?

Yup, a high perfect round of barm brack cooling off. I will be making this bread a lot - you know how we love our toast! Can't beat a good raisin bread toast with sweet butter! heaven with a morning cuppa! Enjoy!

Barm Brack
an Irish Mixed Fruit Loaf
an adapted recipe from Irish Pub Cooking/Parragon Books Ltd.


5 ⅔ c. bread flour, plus some for dusting
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
1 ¼ c. warm milk (109 ° F)
⅔ c. warm water (same as above)
4 tbsp. soft butter
2 c. mixed dried fruit (currants, golden raisin, dried cranberries)
milk for glazing
flour for sprinkling

Making the Bread:

  1. Place the yeast in the warm milk and stir to dissolve. Add a pinch of the sugar measure. Add the warm water and let the mixture rest for ten minutes or so.
  2. Whisk together the flour, allspice, salt, and the rest of the sugar measure in a deep bowl.
  3. When the yeast mixture is showing some bubbles and froth, make a well in the dry ingredients and add the yeast mixture, mixing to form a shaggy, sticky dough.
  4.  Turn the dough ball out onto a cool kneading surface and, using the flour from the bowl that hasn’t been worked into the dough, knead the sticky dough until it forms a smooth ball of dough.
  5. Let the dough rest while you wash out the bowl, grease it, and get a slightly damp towel ready. Turn the dough ball in the bowl to lightly grease all sides, cover with the damp towel and place the bowl in a warm sunny location for a little over an hour.
  6. While the dough rises, place the mixed fruit and the soft butter in a 9-inch casserole dish. Using your hands, squish the butter and fruit together so that the fruit gets coated and the pan gets greased.
  7. When the dough has doubled in size, gently press it down and turn it onto a lightly floured kneading surface. Press the dough into a rough rectangle and place part of the fruit the width of the middle third of the rectangle. Fold one side over top the fruit, lay more fruit over that third and fold the other side up and over. Flip the top half down over the bottom half of the lump of dough and begin to knead the fruit until it’s evenly distributed.
  8. Gather any snaggly bits that slip of back into the dough ball – dried fruit bits too.
  9. Press the dough into a rough shape of the casserole and place it in the casserole. Cover with the damp towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 425°F while the bread rises.
  10. When the dough is plumped up, brush it lightly with milk, sprinkle flour over the top, and bake for 15 minutes in the pre-heated oven. After 15 minutes, cover the bread with foil, lower the temperature to 350°F and continue baking for another 40 to 45 minutes or until the bread is golden brown, and sounds hollow when rapped.
  11. Turn the bread out of the casserole to a cooling rack and let it cool before slicing.
  12. Serve slices of barm brack with honey butter and a pot of tea for the perfect breakfast or tea break.

Honeyed Butter

Whip a scant ½ c. honey and ¼ lb. soft butter in a bowl. Scrape into a pretty dish and chill until firm.


  1. I have never heard of this Irish bread, It sure looks good! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love to use Pannettone as French Toast, talk about recipes transcending cultures. I am sure this lovely bread would be just as delicious with or without the "French".

  3. This sounds wonderful!!! I'm so ready for the weather to cool so I can bake some bread. Either that, or can I come and live in your blog?

  4. fruit breads are one of my most favourite things... I think I may make a loaf this coming weekend... it looks stunning and your photography is excellent (as usual) I just want a slice now, that's my only problem!!

  5. Wonderful bread. I have an Irish cookbook with a recipe for a bread like this. I have always wanted to make it. If you are looking for a good colcannon recipe, Tyler Florence had a good one. He use to have that show on tvfood where he would travel everywhere for the best this and that. Well he traveled to Ireland and I have made the recipe every March around St. Patrick's Day. Loads of cream and butter, potatoes, scallions, cabbage and ham. I'm dying for some as I write this.

    1. Susan! Thank you so much! I actually have a big ham that I bought earlier this summer and froze (the price was right at the time!) and I was thinking of making the colcannon and roasting the ham ... yum! I'll check out Tyler's recipe!


Anonymous comments will not be accepted. Please be aware that due to spamming concerns, I must be able to track back. Use your Google account ID to comment.