Irish brack or barmbrack is a traditional fruit loaf where the fruit is soaked in sweet tea before making a quick bread. It's a perfect treat with your tea/coffee.
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Like many people, I learned a lot about cooking form my mum and have then expanded that myself as an adult to a broader range of cuisines and experimenting to suit my tastes and lifestyle. However I also have some great cooking memories with my grandpa who lived not too far from me growing up that I treasure and would happily re-live.
There are a few recipes that my mum still makes, and I do too now and then, that came from my grandparents, with this tasty fruit loaf being one of them. It is incredibly easy to make but also tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. Just as I remember enjoying with my grandparents.
What does Barmbrack mean?
Barmbrack is the Anglicized spelling of the Irish Gaelic name "bairín breac". This translates as "speckled loaf" which as you can see, is a pretty apt name. We always called it Irish brack, which I think is the more popular name in Scotland for is.
It doesn't use a lot of ingredients nor take a lot of steps as it's very much the kind of loaf made at home. It's perfect if you were to have guests coming over for tea or just to enjoy as a snack yourself.
For me, making it brings back a flood of fantastic memories from making bread with my grandpa, helping him with winemaking or soaking rum babas or Christmas cake to various other food tasks I was given in the kitchen or garden (I was chief apple picker quite often).
My grandmother had made the majority of food for most of their marriage, but with age my grandmother's eyesight got much worse and so my grandpa took on all of the cooking.
He had always had his pet cooking projects anyway, and so it really just added to them in many ways. It's also largely down to him that some recipes are even written down at all as my grandmother was much more of your classic 'by sight' cook, as I suspect she had learnt.
That might explain why this recipe was in cups rather than weight, as is more typical in the UK, as it's the closest my grandpa got to interpreting what she did. Either way, this Irish brack is a delicious and easy fruit loaf that I would definitely suggest you try.
Steps to make Irish barmbrack
All you do is:
- Soak the dried fruit, along with the sugar, in tea overnight.
- Add the egg and flour to the mixture and stir to combine.
- Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake.
This loaf is delicious served warm with a little butter on top, or simply on its own. It's relatively light, but still sweet, so was popular in the mix for us with morning tea/coffee.
What is "mixed dried fruit" and can you replace it?
It's worth mentioning that mixed fruit in the UK is not the same as the US, so if you are outside the UK, I suggest making your own blend for this. The mixture used for this is typically 30% raisins, 30% golden raisins (called sultanas in UK), 30% currants and 10% dried candied peel.
I have had trouble getting candied peel before, but found dried papaya a pretty good alternative in my Christmas pudding, so sometimes do the same here.
I don't think it matters if you have exactly the mix I describe and in fact I don't always have one of currants, raisins and golden raisins instead so just go with what I've got. But at least two of the three adds some variety.
This is such an easy and tasty fruit loaf, which has a slight tang from the tea-soaked fruit. While for me it brings back lots of great memories with my grandparents, it's something that anyone will enjoy. It will keep well for a good week and will also freeze as well. But it may well be irrelevant to mention as you might find yourself coming back for more sooner so it doesn't get that long.
Try these other fruity treats perfect alongside a cup of tea or coffee:
- French lemon yogurt cake
- Apple and bacon cornmeal scones
- Eccles cakes (currant filled pastries)
- Plus get more ideas, both sweet and savory, in the snack recipes archives.
Irish barmbrack (fruit loaf)
- 8 oz mixed fruit 225g (see notes)
- 1 cup black tea 240ml, cold
- ¾ cup soft brown sugar 120g
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 8 oz self raising flour 225g, or 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus 2 ¼tsp baking powder and a ¼ tsp, rounded, of salt
- Put the fruit into a bowl with the tea and sugar, stir to dissolve sugar and leave to soak overnight.
- Preheat oven to 325F/160C and grease and/or line a loaf tin (approx 8 ½ x 4 ½in/ 21 x 11cm, sometimes called a 1lb tin).
- Add the egg and the flour (or flour, baking powder and salt) to the fruit and tea mixture and mix until combined but try not to overmix.
- Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top a little and bake for 1 ½hours.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
See all the other recipes to celebrate grandparents day:
Sweets that are the Sweetest
- Grandma’s Lemon Meringue Pie by The Freshman Cook
- Grandmas Raisin Bread by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Homemade Brotchen by Cosmopolitan Cornbread
- Laura’s Old-Fashioned Prune Cake by Palatable Pastime
- Nanny's Raisin Filled Cookies by Grumpy's Honeybunch
- Old Fashioned Cinnamon Rolls by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake by The Redhead Baker
Savory Meals with Special Memories
- Busia’s Barbecue Sauce by Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Gram’s Cajun Rice Dressing by Food Lust People Love
- Grandma’s Polish Meatballs by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Grannies Clam Dip by Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch
- Shepherd’s Pie Quebec Style (Pate Chinois) by Curious Cuisiniere