Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, All Saints' Eve, a night that goes by many names but is known all over the world as a night of mischief, trickery, and sweet treats. But did you know that many of the traditions that we still celebrate today have roots in Pagan Ireland? One such tradition is making a sweet fruit cake known as barmbrack. This year we thought we would put our own spin on things. We did this by adding a little CBD to come up with our own barmbrack recipe though!
Barmbrack Is More Than Just a Fruit Cake That Pairs Well With Cuppa
Barmbrack or báirín breac (pronounced “baw-reen brack”) is a sweet, boozy bread that’s made with sultanas and raisins. Often known as brack, the bread’s traditional Irish name simply means “speckled loaf” because of its appearance.
But what has barmbrack got to do with “spooky szn“? Well, Halloween has been celebrated for over 2000 years in Ireland, where it was originally known as Samhain. This festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter. It was an occasion where farmworkers enjoyed the fruits of their labour over the previous season and prepared for the hard winters ahead.
This is where it starts to get spooky. Samhain, or Halloween, marks the midway point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solistice (other Pagan festivals). Many believed that night, the veil between our world and Otherworld is at its thinnest. This made it easier for spirits and demons to move between the two realms, often using the opportunity to visit living family members.
However, not all the spirits that visited our world were doing so for such wholesome reasons. Some would come over to cause mischief or bring the souls of children back to the Otherworld with them. That’s why parents dressed their children in spooky costumes – to make them blend in with the mischievous spirits, thus protecting them from potential kidnapping. People would also leave out plates full of cakes and fruit as an offering to the spirits to protect them and their livestock from harm during the winter months.
Because the veil between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead was at its thinnest, Halloween night was the perfect time for divination. People would read tea leaves or tarot cards to see what the next year would bring. Equally, you could use your humble barmbrack recipe to tell the future too.
How Our Barmbrack Recipe Can Tell You What the Future Holds
When making barmbrack, many people would slip certain items into the dough before it was baked. Each item had a meaning and if you found one in your slice of cake, it would tell you what the next year would bring.
The most commonly used item was a gold ring. Getting the gold ring in your slice meant you would be getting married within the year. If it was a child who received the ring, they would be the first of their siblings to marry.
In contrast, finding a pea in your cake would mean that you would remain unwed for the following year. It was common to swap a pea for a small stone because unless a dried pea was used, it could be confused for a rather disgusting raisin.
If you found a thimble or a button in your slice, it meant that you would also remain single, but not just for the year. Many people saw it as a sign that you would remain a spinster or a bachelor.
Finding a matchstick or small piece of cloth wasn’t a good sign either. A matchstick symbolised an unhappy marriage, whilst a piece of cloth was a sign of poverty for the next year. A coin, on the other hand, symbolised wealth to come.
It’s fairly uncommon to find anything but a gold ring in barmbracks these days – possibly due to it being a massive choking hazard! However, when you’re using our barmbrack recipe to make your own, feel free to pop a few items in. You never know what the future might hold!
Let’s Get Baking!
There’s not much to this recipe, so whether you’re a beginner cook or culinary queen, you’ll be able to make a delicious brack in time for All Hallow’s Eve. Because this is a ancient recipe, you won’t need any fancy equipment. Just a couple of mixing bowls, a wooden spoon, and a lot of elbow grease!
Before You Start, You’ll Need to Gather:
- 2 large mixing bowls
- 900g loaf tin
- A wooden spoon
- Parchment paper
- A gold ring
You can add in any of the above-mentioned items if you want to go really old school, but most commercially made bracks only have a ring in them these days. If you’re using other items, just wrap them up in a small square of parchment paper, before adding them to the mixture. We don’t want anyone choking on a matchstick or coin!
What Ingredients Do I Need for This Barmbrack Recipe?
Next, you’ll need to collect your ingredients, all of which should be readily available in your local grocery store. Because this is a traditional recipe, it’s not vegan-friendly, but you can easily make it suitable for your vegan pals. Simply swap the egg in the recipe for 3 tbsp of aquafaba (the liquid from the tin of chickpeas). It works just as well!
- 1 large egg
- 250 ml cold tea (we used Canndid English Breakfast Tea)
- 50 ml whiskey
- 125 g light brown sugar
- 225 g plain flour
- 375 g fruit mix ( we used a mix of sultanas and raisins).
- ½ tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp baking powder
Making Traditional Barmbrack With a Candid Magazine Twist
Although this recipe is super easy to make, you’ll need a little prep time. This is because the fruit needs to soak for at least a couple of hours, ideally, you should leave it to soak overnight.
To do this, simply pop your raisins and sultanas into a large mixing bowl and cover them with cold tea and whiskey. Cover the mixture with a clean tea towel and set it aside to chill. Leaving the fruit to soak will make them nice and juicy, with just a hint of booze.
When you’re ready to get baking…
- Set your oven to 170 degrees to preheat. Grease the loaf tin and line it with parchment paper.
- Grab your second mixing bowl and sieve in the flour and the baking powder. You can also add sugar and mixed spice. Using the wooden spoon, give everything a little stir around.
- Next, you’ll want to make a well in the centre of the dry mixture. You can do this by pushing the mixture to the edges of the bowl, leaving a little dip in the middle. Crack your egg into the dip or add your aquafaba if you’re making a vegan-friendly barmbrack.
- Using the trusty wooden spoon again, slowly incorporate the egg/aquafaba into the dry mixture. When this is done you can add in a bit of the liquid that your fruit has been soaking in, and mix it in. You probably won’t need to use all of the liquid but you can add it in a little by little whilst mixing until you get a wet dough.
- When you’re happy with the consistency of your dough, you can drain the remaining liquid from the fruit and chuck the fruit into the mixing bowl too.
- Once again, you can use the wooden spoon to make sure everything is nicely mixed together.
- Spoon about ¾ of the mixture into the loaf tin and smooth it down using the back of the spoon, making sure to bring it right out to the edges.
- Wrap the ring in a small square of parchment paper and press it into the dough. Don’t press it in too much though, it will naturally sink a little as the brack bakes and you don’t want it sinking all the way to the bottom of your back.
- When you’re finished adding your divination items, add the rest of the dough, again smoothing it with the back of the spoon.
- Pop the brack onto the middle shelf of the oven and leave to bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Baking times will differ slightly depending on your oven and how wet your dough was, to begin with. To check if it’s cooked, poke a skewer or clean butter knife into the centre of the dough. If it comes out dry/clean, you’re ready to go!
- Remove the barmbrack from the oven and allow it to cool slightly, before taking it out of the loaf tin and placing it on a wire rack.
- Serve slices of your festival fruitcake with heaps of Irish butter and a strong cup of tea!
Are You Going to Try Our Barmbrack Recipe?
Barmbrack is probably our favourite Halloween recipe because it’s so easy to make, it’s utterly delicious, and it’s good fun to see what you find in your slice. You can use normal breakfast tea to make your brack, or you can spice things up and use CBD-infused tea.
It’s a fun way to update an age-old tradition and as well as getting your daily dose on Halloween night. Not to mention the CBD might even help you sleep after a night of devilment, mischief and sugary sweets!
We’d love to see how you get on with our traditional barmbrack recipe and your own recipes for Halloween using CBD. Don’t forget to share them on Instagram and tag us – you can find us right here. Happy Halloween!