Barm Brack – Ireland

Brendan's Barm Brack - IrelandThis tea bread exists in various forms. In Wales it is known as ʻBara Brithʼ and in Scotland as ʻSelkirk Bannockʼ. ʻBrackʼ reportedly comes from the Gaelic word ʻbreacʼ which means ʻspeckledʼ – a reference to the bountiful dried fruit in this moist loaf. Traditionally served at Halloween, this bread is delicious spread with butter at any time of year.

(Barm is the frothy, yeast mixture that floats on the top of beer vats during the brewing process)
This quantity will make 2 large or 3 medium-sized cakes. They freeze well, and are great to give as gifts. They keep well in greaseproof paper in an airtight container.


  • 10ozs/285g full-fat milk
  • 10ozs/285g water
  • 1oz/30g caster sugar
  • 2ozs/60g fresh yeast
  • 4oz/115g plain flour

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside in a warm place until it rises and falls, about 30-45 minutes depending on room temperature.


  • 2 lbs/1kilo plain flour
  • ½ oz/15g salt
  • 4 ozs/115g caster sugar
  • 6 ozs/170g butter (or ½ lard, ½ butter as in olden recipes)
  • 5 ozs/140g egg at room temperature
  • 3lb 4ozs/1.5kilos sultanas or, a mix of raisins and sultanas
  • 8ozs/225g mixed peel (If using shop-bought, chopped peel, grate in zest of 1 orange to supplement it)
  • Zest of 2 lemons


Whisk the eggs with the sugar and salt for 1 minute with a large whisk. Add this mixture to the ferment. Now add the flour and mix until it starts to form a dough. Before it does so, add the butter or lard/butter mixture, and mix thoroughly to incorporate. Leave aside for 15 minutes to recover.

Brendan's Barm Brack - IrelandMeanwhile, warm the dried fruit in a low oven or on top of an Aga, for example. Add to dough and mix to incorporate. When ready, divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces. Transfer to greased baking tins. Brush with egg wash. Allow to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 200C/420F/Gas5 for 20 minutes before baking. Grease the baking tins (for large think 10” – 11”/25-27cm, for medium-size 9”/23cm) in readiness, or cake hoops. If using cake hoops, grease the tray they will stand on as well.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 40-50 minutes. Test with skewer for doneness. (Cover with tinfoil or greaseproof paper loosely if browning too quickly). Transfer to cooling rack. These loaf-cakes can also be shaped by hand and baked without bakeware. But a cake tin or cake hoop will give it a more rounded and higher appearance.

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One Response to “Barm Brack – Ireland”

  1. November 22, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Looks absolutely delicious!! Will have to try this very soon!!

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