Irish Barmbrack

  • Serves

    serves 6-8


This cakey fruit bread has its roots in the ancient Celtic harvest celebration Samhain. While its name, derived from the Irish báirín breac, or "speckled bread", plays on an exterior that's decidedly homely, concealed within the bread are two treasures: a rich, spicy flavor and a cluster of small, parchment-wrapped objects—a dried bean, a piece of cloth, a coin, and a ring—said to be omens for those who find them. The bean portends spinsterhood; cloth signals lean times ahead; the coin, wealth; and the ring promises marriage. This recipe first appeared in our November 20014 issue with Cate Huguelet's article Lucky Charms.


  • 2 cups black tea, cooled
  • 34 cup raisins
  • 12 cup dried currants, cranberries, or cherries
  • 2 tbsp. each candied lemon and orange peel, minced
  • 2 cups flour, plus more
  • 14 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 14 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 14 tsp. ground cloves
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, preferably European-style like Kerrygold or Plugrá, melted, plus more
  • 14 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Assorted charms, wrapped individually in parchment paper
  • 13 cup honey, warmed


Step 1

Stir tea, raisins, currants, and candied lemon and orange peel in a bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let sit 2 hours, then drain and set aside. Heat oven to 325°. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a bowl; make a well in the center. Mix reserved fruit, the butter, milk, and egg in a bowl and add to well; stir until a wet dough forms. Press dough into a greased 8" cake pan and push charms into dough. Bake until firm, 35–40 minutes. Brush with honey; bake 2 minutes more. Let cool slightly; serve with butter, if you like.

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