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Barmbrack

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Barmbrack is a yeasted bread with added sultanas and raisins.

Usually sold in flattened rounds, it is often served toasted with butter along with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The dough is sweeter than sandwich bread, but not as rich as cake, and the sultanas and raisins add flavour and texture to the final product. In Ireland it is sometimes called Báirín Breac, and the term is also used as two words in its more common version. This may either be from the Irish word báirín - a loaf - and breac - speckled (due to the raisins in it), hence it means a speckled loaf (a similar etymology to the Welsh bara brith). The yeast used was said to be skimmed from the top of fermenting beer and, as beer would also have been made at this time, this is likely. This suggests an alternative etymology, from the use of barm as just such a yeast. Note that the most common spelling in Ireland is Barmbrack.

Halloween tradition

Barmbrack is the center of an Irish Halloween custom. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, "to beat one's wife with", would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be wed within the year. Other articles added to the brack include a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolise going into the priesthood or to the Nuns, although this tradition is not widely continued in the present day. Commercially produced barmbracks for the Halloween market still include a toy ring.


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References

Barmbrack, en.wikipedia.org

Breads - page One, www.irishcultureandcustoms.com

Barmbrack, www.veg-world.com

Barmbrack, www.suite101.com