We Love Cooking! + [tea]

:: Halloween Barmbrack

The race is on to get the decorations up, the pumpkins carved, the costume sorted and the treats and goodies all laid out! Yes, Halloween is literally two days away. I've just moved into a new house so despite the fact that we've been carting furniture in and out I have found time to pick up some pumpkins, although carving them is still on the 'to do' list. I'm planning to make a velvet pumpkin soup served in the pumpkin itself, some roasted savoury pumpkin seeds and an all American pumpkin pie if I get a chance over the weekend, but this week I've been busy baking up barmbrack! I had planned to include the recipe in last week's Cork News Menu pages but unfortunately it was eaten up before I got a chance to take a picture!

Barmbrack is a big part of Halloween tradition here in Ireland, with objects baked in the dough signifying different things. In most shop bought barmbracks you'll find a ring, which if you're lucky enough to receive it in a slice means you should be wed within one year! My mother recently told me the story of when she lived in Finland as a child and my grandmother generously baked a barmbrack for their Finnish neighbours, only to be berated by the lady next door after her child nearly choked on the ring! Needless to say they moved back to Ireland not long after! In keeping with tradition, I cheekily asked the baker at our local supermarket if he could give me a ring to put in my barmbrack, and he had no problem handing over a few, so don't be afraid to ask! This is a really easy recipe but it does take a bit of time, so if you want to enjoy it on Halloween night, make sure to get cooking today!

Halloween Barmbrack
This recipe makes a really beautiful moist loaf which is packed with flavour from the mixed spice and dried fruit, which sits overnight in cold tea and whiskey to soak up all the goodness. You can drop the whiskey if you wish but I think it adds another flavour kick...

Makes one 900g loaf
225g cream flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
375g packet of fruit mix
250ml cold tea
50ml of whiskey
125g light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
A ring to place inside

Place the fruit mix in a bowl and pour over the whiskey and cold tea. Allow to soak up the liquid overnight.
Preheat the oven to 170oC/Gas Mark 3 and grease and line a 900g loaf tin
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and mixed spice in a mixing bowl.
Make a well and break in the egg, using a wooden spoon, mix the egg with the dry ingredients. Add a little bit of the liquid the fruit mix is sitting in and mix it through. You may not need all the liquid, you are looking for a wet dough.
Then stir through the fruit mix until everything is thoroughly combined. Add in the ring and stir through.
Spoon the wet dough into the lined loaf tin and place in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the loaf tin and placing on wire rack.
Cover in cling wrap and tin foil and allow to sit for 1-2 days before cutting into it.
Serve in slices spread with a little butter and good cuppa!