This loaf is traditionally baked for Halloween, but is delicious at any time of year...
Halloween and its equivalent festivities all over the world have their origins centuries before our modern-day interpretations. This is the night when the boundaries between this world and the next are fluid and thinner...that the souls of the dead are believed to walk the earth, a setting for supernatural encounters...
Ireland's version is based on the Celtic festival of Samhain, derived from the old Irish, meaning Summer's End.
Traditionally, this loaf was baked under a terracotta dome, rather than a tin, and is still made in a round boule shape. Barm is the term for the yeast filtered out of beer in the last stages of production; a cheaper form of yeast.
You can use any tea you like to soak the fruit, I used T2's wonderful French Earl Grey, as the floral flavours really complement the dried fruit - I use cranberries and raisins, but you can use any combination of dried fruit you prefer.
A central part of the Irish tradition calls for several things to be included in the dough, a little like the sixpence in a Christmas pudding, but with slightly different meanings...
Tradition has it that if your piece of barm brack has a ring you will wed within the year; a thimble signifies that your single state will remain unchanged for another year; a stick indicates either an unhappy marriage and/or continual disputes in your life; a piece of cloth unfortunately predicts a year of bad luck and poverty; and a small silver coin, such as a sixpence, foretells good fortune and riches.
- 250g mixed dried fruit (I use cranberries and raisins but use whatever combination you prefer)
- 250ml strong black tea (I prefer T2's delicious French Earl Grey but again, whatever you prefer)
- 350g white bread flour
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast (I prefer Fermipan, but use whatever you have to hand)
- 25g soft unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon rapadura sugar
- 1 large free range egg
- 80ml warm milk (I prefer almond milk but dairy milk is fine)
- approximately 50ml lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
- The day before you plan to make the bread:
- Place the dried fruit into a bowl, cover with the hot tea and leave to steep overnight.
- [b]Magimix CE method[/b]:
- Add flour to main bowl, then yeast on one side and salt on the other.
- Add the softened butter, along with the sugar, egg, milk and 2/3 of the water.
- Select Bake Bread/Brioche and run for 2 minutes on speed 10 - add more water if necessary.
- Drain the fruit well and add to the bowl, along with the spices.
- Run the bread/brioche programme for a further 3 minutes until fruit is incorporated and dough is smooth and fruit well combined.
- [b]Using a mixer with the dough hook[/b]:
- Add the flour to the main bowl, then add the yeast on one side and salt on the other.
- Add the softened butter, along with sugar, egg, milk and 2/3 water.
- Begin mixing on slow speed, adding more water only if necessary.
- Mix on medium speed for 4-5 minutes, until the dough comes together and is smooth and elastic.
- Both methods:
- Remove dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film.
- Leave in a warm, draught-free place for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.
- Gently scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until the dough is smooth and tender.
- Transfer the dough to a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Cover with a lightly floured cloth and leave to rise once again until doubled in size.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220c.
- When the dough is ready, your finger will leave an indentation when gently pressed.
- Bake the loaf for 20-25 minutes until the loaf is deeply golden and sounds hollow when tapped underneath.
- Allow to cool before slicing and serving buttered or plain.
All Souls’ Night
Midnight has come and the great Christ Church bell And many a lesser bell sound through the room; And it is All Souls’ Night. And two long glasses brimmed with muscatel 5 Bubble upon the table. A ghost may come; For it is a ghost’s right... WB Yeats