Barmbrack is one of those things you either LOVE or loathe! Growing up in Ireland, the shops would be chockablock with the stuff every year around Halloween.
🍞 What Is Barmbrack?
Barmbrack is a traditional Irish bread with tea-soaked fruit. It is soft and fluffy, and often spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and/or ginger.
Irish barmbrack (bairín breac) which translates to "speckled loaf" is also known as "freckle bread" due to the raisins inside. It is served as a Halloween bread during Samhain - an ancient Gaelic pagan holiday that marks the beginning of the dark months and the end of the harvest season.
Traditionally, barmbrack bread would contain items baked inside the loaf which were believed to tell the fortune of the person who received them. Items included a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a coin, a bean, and a ring.
For safety purposes, we're not including any inedible items in this vegan brambrack, but if you decide to include them please make sure you first wrap them in parchment paper and make those eating aware!
📖 Recipe Overview
- Soft & Fluffy - Using vegan buttermilk and yeast helps to create a pillowy soft consistency that makes this bread delicious served fresh or toasted.
- Easy To Make - Made using mostly pantry staples and easy-to-find ingredients, it is especially easy if you have a stand mixer as this does the majority of the work for you!
🧾 Ingredients Needed
This dairy-free barmbrack recipe comes together with pretty straightforward ingredients, a lot of which you may already have in our pantry. Here's what to grab:
- Vegan Buttermilk - This is a simple mixture of soy milk and apple cider vinegar. You can also use almond or oat milk and lemon juice, depending on what you already have to hand.
- Spices - I love using ground cinnamon and nutmeg here but feel free to add some dried ginger, allspice, and ground cloves as well. For a more neutral bread, you can omit the spices altogether.
- Instant Yeast - This homemade bread calls for instant dry yeast. If you are using active dry yeast, it will need to be activated first. To activate, add the yeast to warm buttermilk with a spoonful of sugar and stir. Once the mixture begins bubbling and foaming (about 5-10 minutes), it’s ready to go!
🥣 How To Make Barmbrack
Making homemade barm brack is pretty straightforward, and you either make it with a stand mixer or by hand, both versions are explained in detail in the recipe card at the end of the page.
Here's a visual of how it's done:
Step 1: Combine freshly brewed tea, whiskey, raisins, and sultanas in a bowl. Cover and let it sit at room temperature overnight or for a minimum of 1-2 hours.
Step 2: Drain the liquid from the fruit. Then add the soaked fruit to a bowl with 2 tablespoons of flour and toss to combine, set aside.
Step 3: Knead the dough ingredients in a stand mixer for 5 minutes until it forms a soft dough.
Step 4: Add in the drained and flour-coated fruit and mix for another minute to combine.
Step 5: Place the dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Place in a warm part of your kitchen to proof for 1-2 hours until the dough has puffed up and doubled in size.
Step 6: Punch the air out of the dough, and mold it into a round ball (it does not need to be perfect). Then place it into the prepared cake pan.
Step 7: Cover the pan and let it proof in a warm place for another hour until it puffs up. Brush with vegan egg wash and bake for 55-60 minutes until the surface is golden brown.
Step 8: Cool the bread slightly for 15 minutes. Then carefully remove the bread from the springform pan and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.
While I don't recommend you change the ratios of dry and wet ingredients in this barmbrack brad, there are lots of additions you can include to tweak it to your liking. Here are some ideas:
- Add zest - You can add 50g of dried mixed peel or a tablespoon of freshly grated orange zest or lemon zest for a fresh and zingy twist.
- Alternate the fruit - Depending on what you have to hand, dried cranberries, blueberries, currants, or glace cherries, are all lovely in this loaf bread. Just make sure you check the cherries are vegan as they sometimes contain the artificial color, carmine.
- Alcohol-Free - You can omit the whiskey altogether and replace it with additional strong black tea if preferred.
- Add trinkets - You can bake items inside the bread such as a ring. As mentioned above, please make sure you wrap them in parchment first and make those consuming the bread aware!
While both are traditional Irish recipes served around autumn, barmbrack is a yeasted bread that is speckled with dried fruit.
Tea brack, on the other hand, is a quick bread. It is much sweeter and has a moist, rich crumb, more similar to fruit cake.
Absolutely! Place the loaf in an airtight container or wrap well with plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month. You can defrost it in the oven so it tastes fresh again. Simply sprinkle a little water on the surface and bake at 175C for 10 minutes until warmed throughout.
🥖 More Yeasted Recipes
- 118 ml (½ cup) freshly brewed strong tea, I use 2x black tea bags
- 50 ml (⅕ cup) whiskey, sub with additional tea
- 100 g (⅔ cup) raisins
- 100 g (⅔ cup) sultanas
- 240 ml (1 cup) vegan buttermilk
- 75 g (2.65 oz) vegan butter
- 460 g (3 ⅔ cups) all-purpose flour, + additional 2 tablespoons for soaked fruit
- 60 g (⅓ cup) granulated sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast, *see note 1
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Vegan Egg Wash (optional)
- 2 tablespoons soy milk
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Please read the recipe thoroughly before getting started. For the most accurate results, measure with a digital kitchen scale.
- Night before or at least 1-2 hours ahead: Add the raisins and sultanas to a bowl and pour freshly brewed tea and whiskey on top. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature overnight or for a minimum of 1-2 hours. Drain the liquid from the soaked fruit (*see note 2). Add the fruit to a bowl with 2 tablespoons of flour and toss to combine, set aside.
- Prepare ingredients and equipment: Lightly grease the base and sides of a 9-inch springform pan and line the base with a round of parchment paper.Make a batch of vegan buttermilk. Slowly melt the vegan butter in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Be careful not to heat it, you just want to warm it enough to melt.
- Make the dough: Add the melted butter to the vegan buttermilk and mix. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, spices, and salt. Knead (stand mixer): Pour the buttermilk mixture and dry ingredients into the stand mixer bowl. Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough in a stand mixer for 5 minutes. Add in the drained fruit and mix for another minute to combine.
- Alternatively, knead the dough by hand: Pour the buttermilk mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and use a spatula to bring the mixture together into a shaggy dough. Knead for 5-7 minutes until it forms a smooth ball, then mix in the drained fruit. If kneading by hand, DON'T be tempted to flour the surface, the dough will be very sticky at the start but it will come together once ready. If it gets too messy, you can wash and dry your hands halfway through the process. A dough scraper is also very useful to frequently scrape up any dough that sticks to the surface.
- 1st proof: Clean and dry the bowl and lightly grease it with some oil. Place the dough ball into the bowl and cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm part of your kitchen to proof for 1-2 hours until the dough has puffed up and doubled in size.
- 2nd proof: Punch the air out of the dough, mold the dough into a round ball (it does not need to be perfect), and then place it into the prepared cake pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, foil, or a clean tea towel, and let it proof in a warm place for another hour until it puffs up.
- Bake: Preheat the oven to fan 175°C (347°F). Mix together the soy milk and maple syrup for the vegan egg wash and brush it over the top of the bread dough. Bake for 55-60 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool slightly for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the bread from the springform pan and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serving and storage: Serve as is or toasted with vegan butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, agave, or vegan honey. To store, wrap up the loaf or place it into a sealed container and store it at room temperature for up to 4 days. It can also be frozen for up to a month.
- Yeast: This recipe calls for instant dry yeast, if you are using active yeast, it will need to be activated first. to activate, add the yeast to warm buttermilk with a spoonful of sugar and stir. Once the mixture begins bubbling and foaming (about 5-10 minutes), it’s ready.
- Save the liquid from the tea soak. To avoid food waste, you can use this to make iced tea or add it to recipes like rice pudding or porridge. Just remember the alcohol content in case you plan on giving it to kids, opt for the alcohol-free version of the recipe.
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