Fruit cake. When I hear those words, I immediately flash back to a horrible, store bought, holiday fruit cake that looked like it would be delicious…but instead made me barf. (literally)
I was sooooo excited to try that holiday sweet bread when I was young. From a kid’s perspective it looked like it would be sweet and filled with candy! But what looked like candy soon turned out to be gross hyper green and red fake cherries strewn about in a dense, dry bread-thing, full of other mysterious, dark fruit bits, and it was terribly disappointing and I’ve avoided all fruit cakes ever since. I assumed that all fruit cake, no matter who made it including my dear Grandmother, was disgusting.
That was over 48 years ago.
Irish Brack (traditional Irish Barmbrack)
As most of you know, I’m baking my way through The Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking, and I’m baking things I would never even consider because it’s in the book. Some are new favorites, some are just an item to check off the list of ‘to do’. I figured the Irish Brack would be CHECK, done. But…instead…I love it.
I have no idea what that THING was that I ate when I was a kid…but, that thing they called a fruit cake ruined my perception of something that is really quite glorious.
The GBBO cookbook has some gems. This little Brack feels like it’s thrown in there amidst some pretty fancy raised/plaited loaves, so I didn’t think much of it, and I made it only because it was in the book.
My oh my, this little ‘quick’ (not so quick) bread is DELICIOUS! I didn’t think much about or shop specifically for the dried fruit I added, it was what I had in the cupboard. But, the combination of golden raisins (sultanas), dried sour cherries, blueberries and apricots is a winner.
Try it, you might like it
If you’ve had really bad fruit cake experience, or if you hate fruit cake, I dare you to try this recipe. You could be sweetly surprised like I was!
I hope you try it, and if you do, let me know what you think!
Irish Brack (Barmbrack, Fruit Bread)
- 2 tea bags, English Breakfast (or other strong breakfast blend or Assam)
- 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) boiling water
- 1 ½ cups (350 grams) dried mixed fruit (Raisins/Sultanas, Cherries, Blueberries, Apricots or your favorites)
- ¾ cup (150 grams) packed dark brown sugar
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup +1 tablespoon (75 grams) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
- 1 medium egg, beaten to mix
- Put the tea bags into a medium-sized heatproof bowl.
- Pour the boiling water over the tea bags.
- Add the brown sugar to the water, stir.
- Add the mixed fruit, stir well.
- Cover the bowl loosely with a clean, dry tea towel and leave on the counter at room temperature to soak (overnight, or for 8 hours)
- After the fruit has soaked long enough, heat your oven to 325°F (170°C).
- Prepare a 9×5 loaf pan, grease with butter, and line with a long strip of parchment paper (lengthwise, long enough to use as ‘handles’ to help pull the bread out when finished)
- Remove the tea bags (squeeze the bags to remove the liquid before discarding)
- Sift the flour, salt, mixed spice and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the pieces of butter to the bowl and rub in until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.
- Add the beaten egg and the fruit/sugar/tea mixture and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
- Transfer the heavy, sticky mass to the prepared tin and spread evenly.
- Bake in the heated oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours until well risen and dark golden brown, and a wooden skewer or cocktail stick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a round bladed knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the loaf and carefully lift it out (using the ends of the paper strip) on to a wire rack.
- Wait until completely cold before slicing.
- The loaf will be even better if you wrap it in foil or store in a airtight container and leave it to mature for 1-2 days before slicing.