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Barmbrack: Wikis

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Two loaves of barmbrack

Barmbrack (Irish: Báirín Breac) 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 is from the Irish word báirín - a loaf - and breac - speckled (due to the raisins in it), hence it means a speckled loaf. It is said that the yeast used was skimmed from the top of fermenting beer and, as beer would also have been made at this time, this is probably true. Note that the most common spelling in Ireland is Barmbrack.

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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.

Other references

Barmbracks were famously mentioned in the Van Morrison song "A Sense of Wonder":

Pastie suppers down at Davey's chipper
Gravy rings, barmbracks

Wagon wheels, snowballs.

Reference to barmbracks is made in Dubliners by James Joyce. The following example can be found in the first paragraph of Joyce's short story Clay:

The fire was nice and bright and on one of the side-tables were four very big barmbracks. These barmbracks seemed uncut; but if you went closer you would see that they had been cut into long thick even slices and were ready to be handed round at tea.

External links

References

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