When I was growing up Halloween was a huge affair. Being Irish, my parents seemed to have great enthusiasm for fun and trick or treating was compulsory. In Ireland the word fun isn’t considered a good enough word to describe the time you're having under that heading, so they call it ‘the Craic.’ Halloween was the perfect time to employ the craic; the chance to scare children rigid being an occasion not to be missed.
Still in Ireland to this day, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, homes are littered with the delicious treat known as Barnbrack which is an Irish fruit loaf. The title comes from the Irish Gaelic bairín breac which literally means speckled loaf. In traditional Ireland each member of the family would get a slice of the delicious cake but you had to be careful when chewing the delicious treat as there were several charms hidden in it, wrapped in baking paper. Each charm signified an omen for the finder’s future.
If you found a ring you were sure to find romance. If you got the coin then you were in for a prosperous year, but if you found the rag than your financial future was in doubt. [I must have found the rag ten times over!!] If you find the thimble then it was thought you would never marry! - Tricky if you were already married.... Nowadays many commercial Barnbrack cakes sold in Irish shops around Halloween contain a ring.
Mind you, regardless of austerity, the ring maybe about to get a lot more grandiose if the rumour about the Irish finding oil are to be believed. Check out this fantastic, hilarious journalistic take on the state of the Irish economy by writer and broadcaster Fiona Looney. Click here.
I've made Barnbrack this year and wrapped coins in tin foil as my charms. The children love the moist loaf (though I think they eat the slices to get to the gifts!!) and it’s dairy free. Have a go, it’s so simple.
380g dried fruit
A pot of good tea, enough to cover the fruit
225g self-raising flour
1 or 2 eggs, beaten
1 or 2 teaspoon mixed spice
125g caster sugar
honey or Golden Syrup (optional – for decoration)
Soak the fruit in tea overnight, then drain. Mix together with the rest of the ingredients (apart from the honey/golden syrup) and stir in the charms wrapped in tin foil. Don’t over-knead the dough, or your delicately re-hydrated fruit will break up.
Line the base of a 20cm round cake tin or 900g loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Grease the tin and pile in the mixture.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170C for between an hour and one hour fifteen minutes, until risen and firm to the touch. Check it is cooked with a skewer.
You can brush with melted honey or golden syrup or glaze with a syrup made from two teaspoons of sugar dissolved in three teaspoons of boiling water.
Source for the post The Evening Herault and Irish Central.