Here we go! Day two of the Battle of the Bracks. Today we are considering Irish Tea Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze. (Yup…I said “Whiskey Honey Butter”….don’t know about you, but that alone sounds like the stuff of dreams!) As I mentioned yesterday in my post about Irish Barmbrack Bread, Barmbrack is a tradition Halloween Treat in Ireland. And it is rather appropriate that we look to Ireland for Halloween goodies, since Halloween actually has Celtic origins. Our modern Halloween celebrations are derived from the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain was Celtic New Year. It was a harvest festival which marked the dying of the sun-god and a turning to the colder, dormant half of the year. On this night, the Celts believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its lowest point. The dead could more easily travel back over to our side, and if we weren’t careful, we could accidentally wander over in to their world and be trapped-a good reason to stay close to home and bonfires, no doubt! This belief likely gave rise to our Halloween legends of ghosts, ghouls and witches wandering about on this night in particular. Roaming spirits aside, Halloween was also a time for divination and that is where Barmbrack came in. This bread was actually used in an ancient fortune telling ritual. When a loaf of this bread was baked, several different trinkets or charms which had been wrapped in parchment paper were added into the bread. When the bread was sliced and handed out, your future was foretold by whatever bit you found in your portion. A wedding ring meant you’d be married within the year, a pea meant that you would not, a coin signified wealth, whereas a piece of rag meant a lean year, a thimble predicted a spinster and button meant bachelorhood was in your future. Feel free to add whatever trinkets you prefer to your bread. Most commercial loaves baked today only contain one ring.
Now that the history lesson has ended, it must be time for the Brack review. I found this Irish Tea Barmbrack to be quite a charmer! (har har). It will definitely make you change your mind about fruit cakes without a doubt. It is really dense, boozy and bursting with fruit. And that Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze? Pure ambrosia I tell you! One taste and you will be hooked! And if all that wasn’t good enough, this bread is a one bowl wonder. You do have to remember to start the fruit soaking in the tea/whiskey bath the night before, but after that you just add all the ingredients to the soaking bowl, mix ’em up and pour them in the baking tin. Super easy!!! Which is just what I need right now because my house is still somewhere midst deconstruction/construction. Kind of has that perfect urban decay/ Halloween vibe come to think of it. Bottom line – the husband and I really like both Bracks and were it not for that Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze the yeasted version would have won easily. But well that amazing glaze is there for consideration. This has led us straight down the road to indecision! Not that I’m complaining at all since I now have two tasty loaves of bread that I can just keep sampling under the guise of trying to decide between them. So I’ll leave the judging up to you. If you have an opinion – yeasted vs. non – I’d love to hear from you in the Battle of the Bracks!
Irish Tea Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze
recipe slightly adapted from: Edible Ireland
You can use whatever fruit you would like in this bread, ie. all raisins, or substitute in some mixed candied peel, cranberries or glacé cherries if you prefer. Also if you would rather not use any whiskey in your bread (glad you can’t see the look of horror on my face right now…) you can soak the fruit in 1 1/4 cup tea and just leave it out of the glaze.
For the bread:
- 100 g (3/4 cup) raisins
- 100 g (3/4 cup) sultanas
- 100 g (3/4 cup) currants
- 50 g (1/4 cup) chopped dates
- zest of 1 lemon
- 250 ml (1 cup) hot, strong black tea
- 50 ml (1/4 cup) Irish Whiskey
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 225 g (1 3/4 cups) self-raising flour
- 200 g (1 1/4 cup) light brown sugar
- 1 level teaspoon mixed spice
For the Glaze:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup Irish Whiskey
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Put the raisins, sultanas, currants, dates in a large bowl, one that’s big enough to accommodate all the ingredients later on. Pour over the tea and whiskey and allow the fruit to soak for at least 30 minutes or even overnight. (overnight is better!)
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 1 lb (5″x 9″) loaf tin with parchment paper or spray with non-stick baking spray.
Add in the lemon zest, beaten egg, flour, sugar and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well until everything is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin. Bake for about 1- 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Place tin on wire rack to cool while you prepare glaze.
Place all glaze ingredients in sauce pan and heat over low heat. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for several minutes until it reduces slightly. Set aside to cool until warm.
Remove the warm bread from the baking tin and place on parchment paper. Once glaze has cooled to warm, paint bread all over with glaze in several passes, allowing time for it to be absorbed before adding the next wash.
Irish Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)