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Traditional Irish Barmbrack Recipe

Irish Barmbrack is a sweet yeast bread made with Irish whiskey and dried fruit and is a delicious introduction on how to make fruit bread.

If you are somebody who enjoys cinnamon raisin toast in the mornings, hot cross buns around Easter, or a fruity flavor fruitcake around the holidays, then Báirín Breac, otherwise known as Irish Barmbrack, is probably a recipe you will seriously enjoy.

a slice of fruit bread on a plate, with butter and a knife

All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC

What is Barmbrack?

Irish Barmbrack, or Báirín Breac, is an instant yeast-based bread enhanced with dried raisins, sultanas, or other dried fruit. The bread is associated with Halloween in Ireland, where an object, oftentimes a ring, is baked inside the bread with the person who receives it considered to be fortunate. 

I find most people fall into one of two categories where fruit loaf and fruit bread are concerned. You either love the stuff or you hate it.

Admittedly, I wasn’t keen on the stuff for a long time but changed my tune when this was delivered to me as a Christmas fruit bread by my friend Tate. Yeah, he’s an artisan bread baker, so most everything he bakes I love.

Thing is, I think you’ll love this, too. In fact, I seem to know you will! It’s a delicious recipe baked with basic ingredients, and is absolute Heaven sliced, toasted, and buttered with that morning cuppa.

a loaf of Irish Brambrack fruit breast

Irish Barmbrack Fruit Bread Ingredients

  • a mixture of dry fruits such as raisins, cherries, blueberries, sultanas, currants, or cranberries
  • black tea
  • Irish whiskey or brandy
  • active dry yeast
  • granulated sugar
  • warm milk
  • all-purpose flour
  • allspice or pumpkin pie spice
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground nutmeg
  • fine sea salt
  • unsalted butter
  • large room temperature egg
  • fresh lemon zest
  • candied orange peel or the zest of a large orange if unable to source the candied peel

What Is the Best Dried Fruit to Use?

Traditional recipes for this bread call for sultanas and raisins. I have modified my loaf some due to not being able to purchase raisins at my local grocery in over a week. Right??!

I was able to find a package that contained a mix of four fruits: dried blueberries, cranberries, golden raisins, and cherries. You’ll need two cups of whatever fruit you decide on.

You will also want candied fruit. I go orange peel here, but if you prefer, get the orange incorporated by way of the zest of a large orange.

Will Any Variety of Tea Work?

You want black tea for this recipe, and a STRONGLY BREWED CUP of black tea at that. You’ll need only one cup, but it must be steeped to where it’s super potent and then completely cooled.

And What About Whiskey?

This is purely optional, but it’s considered part of the method. Most recipes I referenced for this called for a splash, but I measured 1/3-cup, added it to the cooled tea, and poured the lot over the dried fruit.

I also added a splash of a rhubarb-flavored liquor that I quite like when poaching fresh fruit, so tried it in this dried fruit method to acclaim. The fruit macerates in the liquid in the refrigerator overnight.

Whatever liquid remains after the fruits are drained becomes a ‘paintable baste’ for the hot loaf once it’s pulled from the oven. Brushed over the hot top, it provides moisture, gorgeous sheen, and a TON OF FLAVOR as it’s slowly absorbed into the loaf.


How to Make Irish Brambrack

Equipment Needed

Grab a large bowl for soaking your fruit, and a small bowl for proofing the yeast. I also use a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan lined with parchment paper, but a Pullman loaf pan I suspect would work just as well.

When I use my stand mixer, I find this recipe basically stress free. I advocate the use of it for this recipe as the dough hook attachment is invaluable for kneading the bread dough.

This dough is particularly heavy. I have yet to test an electric mixer against this dough to be able to say if it would work.

Also have at the ready plastic wrap for the bread rise and a wire rack for cooling.

Soak the Fruit

Steep a black tea bag in 1-cup of hot water. Let the bag steep for as long as it takes for the liquid to cool down, remove the tea bag and squeeze the liquid saturating the bag back into the cup.

Add 1/3-cups of whiskey or brandy if using. If you want to add something additional as I have, note that this addition isn’t truly traditional, just I was hell bent on using a flavored liquor in this bread.

Pour the lot over the dried fruit, pop a lid on it, and refrigerate until tomorrow. You are not soaking the candied orange, only the dried fruit.

dried fruit soaking in tea and whiskey
Though not traditional, I added a few tablespoons of a rhubarb-flavored liquor in addition to Irish whisky. Recipes are best enjoyed when you can say you put YOUR hallmark on them; tweaked them to appeal to YOUR EATERS. The addition of rhubarb liquor elevates the flavor of this bread, a bread which I’ve been eating since I was a child.

Proof the Yeast

Measure out 3/4-cups of milk and microwave until warm, not hot. Just warm as in lukewarm to the touch. Stir in two teaspoons of granulated sugar and two teaspoons of active dry yeast and stir to dissolve that sugar.

Allow the yeast to stand for 15 minutes while the yeast begins to bloom. You’ll know when it’s ready as it will be frothy, and you may actually be able to watch it move as it blooms.

a measuring cup, with yeast proofing in milk inside
The yeast will be frothy and fragrant after about 15 minutes of proofing.

Make the Dough

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add flour, sugar, spices, and sea salt. Make a shallow well in the center and pour in the cooled melted butter, one large egg, the zest of a lemon, and the yeast mixture.

NOTE: if unable to source candied orange peel, go ahead and add the zest of a single large orange now as well. Candied orange peel or orange zest is integral to the flavor profile in this bread, so be sure to use one or the other. Orange juice is NOT the same and should not be used as a substitute.

On medium speed, mix flour and other ingredients until a dough ball forms. Use the dough hook to knead the soft dough until everything is just combined.

hands scraping cupcake batter from a mixer

Drain Fruit Reserving the Liquid

It’ll be a few hours before you’ll be ready for the reserved liquid, so add a piece of plastic film over the top for now. Add the fruit to the dough and knead on low speed until the fruit is well distributed, about 1 to 2 minutes.

NOTE: if you are able to source candied orange peel (also see my link above for purchasing through Amazon), add it in along with the fruit.

First Dough Rise

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and loosely place a piece of plastic wrap or dampened clean tea towel over the top of the bowl. Turn your oven light on but leave the heat off.

Place the bowl in the oven for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. The amount of heat thrown from a single oven lamp will be enough to create the perfect environment, the perfect warm place, for that yeast to do its magic in just a couple of hours.

Second Dough Rise

Cut a large piece of parchment paper to fit your loaf pan. It helps to fold and make a crease where the bottom meets the sides, and it also helps to give it a good coat of baking spray once the parchment is in place.

Punch the dough down and allow it to gently roll right out of the bowl and into the loaf pan. It’s heavy but as it settles, it will begin to fill in the corners.

Replace the piece of loose film and place back into the oven with only the light on to allow for a second rise. It may seem like a lot of time but it’s really not. Just give it another hour to again double in size.

a loaf of dried fruit bread

Bake Your Barmbrack Bread

Grab the loaf pan from the oven while you preheat it to 350°F. Consider placing the loaf pan atop a parchment-lined baking sheet for ease of handling. I do.

Bake the loaf for 50 minutes center rack, turning halfway through the bake to promote even baking. Use a wooden pick to test for doneness.

a slice of fruit bread on a plate, with butter and a knife

Baste with Reserved Juices

So, there’s a whole hot mess of fabulous in that bowl of drained fruit juices including whiskey. Grab a pastry brush and begin painting or basting the top of the hot loaf all over. Yeah, no egg wash here…

Don’t miss a corner, a side…get it all and USE IT ALL. It’ll take you 10 to 15 minutes for all of the basted liquid to be absorbed but you want this, TRUST ME!

Let the bread cool. Soften a stick of butter on the counter while it cools. Slice and toast and serve or simply slice and serve. And offer gobs of that softened butter. GOBS OF IT.

ProTip: Irish Barmbrack (any sweet fruit bread in general) makes for a fabulous bread pudding and also French toast. If you find you’re not getting to the end of the loaf fast enough but don’t want to waste your efforts, allow it to go stale. Cube it and click here using your Barmbrack in lieu of the Challah or Panettone. Slice it thick, lay it on a baking sheet, and allow the slices to dry out for about 1 hour for using in French toast.

featured image for Irish Brambrack how to make fruit bread

Traditional Irish Barmbrack

Jenny from Not Entirely Average
Irish Barmbrack is a sweet yeast bread made with Irish whiskey and dried fruit and is a delicious introduction on how to make fruit bread.
No ratings yet
Servings: 12 servings
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Soak fruit at least 8 hours 8 hrs
Total Time 9 hrs 20 mins
Course Bread
Cuisine Irish, Southern
Servings 12 servings
Calories 273 kcal

Equipment

  • stand mixer with dough hook use paddle attachment if it's your preference
  • 9 x 5-inch loaf pan use a Pullman loaf pan if it's your preference
  • parchment paper
  • baking spray
  • wire rack for cooling
  • mixing bowls for soaking and proofing

Ingredients
 

  • 2 cups dried fruit any combination of golden raisins, sultanas, currants, Zante currants, cherries, blueberries, cranberries
  • 1/3 cup candied orange peel chopped; may substitute the zest of 1 whole orange
  • lemon zest
  • 1 cup black tea very, very strong; steeped and allowed to cool completely
  • 1/3 cup Irish whiskey optional
  • 3 tablespoons rhubarb flavored liquor optional
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk must be lukewarm to the touch but NOT hot
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 -2 teaspoons allspice may substitute apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated/ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg

Instructions
 

soak the fruit

  • Steep a black tea bag (or two) in 1-cup of hot water. Let the bag steep for as long as it takes for the liquid to cool down, remove the tea bag and squeeze the liquid saturating the bag back into the cup. OPTIONAL: Add 1/3-cups of whiskey (or brandy), and up to 3 tablespoons of rhubarb-flavored liquor. Pour over the dried fruit (not the candied orange peel) and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.

how to make fruit bread

  • Measure out 3/4-cups of milk and microwave until lukewarm to the touch, not hot. Stir in two teaspoons of granulated sugar and two teaspoons of active dry yeast and stir to dissolve that sugar. Allow that yeast to stand for 15 minutes while the yeast begins to bloom. You'll know when it's ready as it will be frothy and fragrant, and you may actually be able to watch it move as it blooms.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add flour, remaining sugar, spices, and sea salt. Make a shallow well in the center and pour in the cooled melted butter, one large egg, lemon zest, and the fully bloomed yeast mixture. On medium speed, mix flour and other ingredients until a dough ball forms. Use the dough hook to knead the soft dough until everything is just combined. NOTE: if unable to source candied orange peel, go ahead and add the zest of a single large orange now as well. Candied orange peel or orange zest is integral to the flavor profile in this bread, so be sure to use one or the other.
  • Drain the fruit reserving the liquid. Cover with plastic film and set aside. Add the fruit to the dough and knead on low speed until the fruit is well distributed, about 1 to 2 minutes. NOTE: if you are able to source candied orange peel (also see my link in the post for purchasing), add it in along with the soaked fruit.

first dough rise

  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and loosely place a piece of plastic wrap or dampened clean tea towel over the top of the bowl. Turn your oven light on but leave the heat off. Place the bowl in the oven for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

second dough rise

  • Cut a large piece of parchment paper to fit your loaf pan. It helps to fold and make a crease where the bottom meets the sides, and it also helps to give it a good coat of baking spray once the parchment is in place.
  • Punch the dough down and allow it to gently roll right out of the bowl and into the loaf pan. It's heavy but as it settles, it will begin to fill in the corners. Replace the piece of loose film and place back into the oven with only the light on to allow for a second 1-hour rise or until doubled in size.
  • Remove the risen loaf from the oven while you preheat it to 350°F. Consider placing the loaf pan atop a parchment-lined baking sheet for ease of handling. Bake the loaf for 50 minutes center rack, turning halfway through the bake to promote even baking. Use a wooden pick to test for doneness. Pick will pull away clean.
  • So, there's a whole hot mess of fabulous in that bowl of drained fruit juices including whiskey. WHILE THE LOAF IS HOT grab a pastry brush and begin slowly basting the top all over. Don't miss a corner, a side…get it all and USE IT ALL. It'll take you 10 to 15 minutes for all of the basted liquid to be absorbed but you want this, TRUST ME!
  • Let the bread cool. Soften a stick of butter. Slice and toast and serve or simply slice and serve. And offer gobs of that softened butter. GOBS OF IT.

Notes

Please Note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not use table salt or iodized salt in any of the recipes you find on Not Entirely Average UNLESS specified otherwise.
Any Combination of Dried Fruit is able to be used in this recipe. If you prefer to stick with traditional ingredients, opt for golden raisins and sultanas. 
Substitute the Zest of One Whole Orange if you cannot source candied orange peel.
Whiskey and Rhubarb Liquor in this method are purely optional. If you do not want to use alcohol, substitute 1/3 cup apple juice in lieu of the whiskey.
ProTip: Irish Barmbrack makes for a fabulous bread pudding and also a fabulous French toast. If you find you’re not getting to the end of the loaf fast enough but don’t want to waste your efforts, allow it to go slightly stale. Cube it (bread pudding) or slice it thick (French toast) and use the Barmbrack in lieu of Challah, Panettone, or sandwich bread. Be sure to see my recipe on this site for Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding with Warm Cinnamon Syrup as it’s FABULOUS using Barmbrack!

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 273kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 6gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 116mgPotassium: 146mgFiber: 2gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 167IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 43mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Bairin Breac, fruit bread, Irish Barmbrack
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2 Comments

  1. I am delighted by something in this post Miss Jenny. I was curious about your recipe for the bread and in reading about it I spotted ART in the AGE! I LOVED ROOT, and SNAP, and when I bought it, RHUBY!

    1. Penny, you know Art in The Age??! I seriously love the rhubarb and I hope if you try this recipe, you will give it a go. I was always intrigued by AitA Snap and wonder how you have enjoyed it? As a cocktail or for baking, what? I need to sit with you for a few hours and just gab…I already know we’d probably leave no gaps in conversation! xo