“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.”
– James Joyce
A grey sky morning with pockets of peeping sun and the pitter patter of light rain on the kitchen window, wrapped in that crisp October air that drafts silently through the house reminds me that it’s that time of year again. The time of ghosts and ghouls and bright orange pumpkins at our doors, of witches and warm soups and paths strewn with the yellow and reddish-brown remains of Summer’s foliage. It’s undoubtedly my favorite time of year with Halloween and my birthday looming at month’s end, and as I ponder over how I’ll celebrate this year (and more importantly, in what costume?), I stir a bowl full of lightly sweet dough for my favorite autumn bread, Barm Brack.
Barm Brack is one of the few bakery items we here in Ireland can claim as unique to our shores. There’s an element of mystic and magic around a loaf of brack, as it’s an Irish Halloween custom and in the old days it would be baked with various objects like rings and coins hidden inside as part of a fortune-telling game. I remember every hallowe’en when I was small I would cut the brack, giving myself the thickest slice of course, praying I would get the gold ring, as the ring predicted one would be married within the year. I can remember the excitement when I would successfully bite into the ring, but of course fortunately for my then six year old self, the prediction didn’t come true!
Baked with plump raisins and fresh lemon peel, Brack is traditionally a yeast bread made with refined flour, so as I don’t eat anything containing gluten, and cant imagine living without Barm Brack, I decided to attempt making a gluten free brack that I could eat. And I’m happy to say it turned our rather well, and next time I might just throw a gold ring in the mix to really make it like the real thing!
So here it is, A gluten-free Irish Barm Brack, perfect for tea time on a chilly October’s eve.
- 2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
- 1 teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1/4 cup milk (or rice or nut milk if Dairy-Free)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup butter (or coconut oil if DF)
- 1/4 cup sugar (plus 1 teaspoon sugar dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water to brush on loaf)
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast
- 1 large room temperature egg
- 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
- 3/4 cup raisins
Preheat the Oven to 200 degrees F, 93 deg Celcius.
Combine flour, xanthan gum, salt, and mixed spice in a large bowl.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, put milk, butter and sugar. When the mixture is melted together, take off heat and sprinkle the dried yeast on top to soften for a few minutes.
Gradually pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and then add the egg and the cider vinegar. Stir together and then add in the grated lemon peel and raisins.
The dough should be thick and shaggy.
Turn the oven off.
Spoon into a greased 8-inch tin and place into the oven (with the heat off) for 40 mins to let the mixture rise. It should double in size.
Then remove from oven and turn the oven back on to 375degF or 190DegC and when it is ready put the brack back in and cook for 35 mins or until golden brown on top.
Remove from oven and garnish with sugar water.
Let cool, and then slice.
Enjoy with a delicious hot cup of tea !