Barm Brack

This excellent fruit bread is associated with St Brigid in Ireland and is eaten there on her feast day, the 1st February. In other places it was eaten at Hallowe’en when there was a thimble, button or silver coin lurking inside, or even a gold ring.


  • 20 g/¾ oz fresh yeast
  • ½ tsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp tepid water
  • 450 g/1 lb strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 55 g/2 oz butter
  • 85 g/3 oz soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 300 ml/½ pint tepid milk
  • 115-140 g/4-5 oz sultanas
  • 55 g/2 oz finely chopped mixed candied peel
  • milk and sugar to glaze


Blend the yeast with the white sugar, water and ½ tsp of the flour. It is ready when it becomes frothy.

Sift the remaining flour into a bowl with the salt and spice. Rub in the butter, then add the brown sugar and make a well in the centre. Pour in the creamed yeast, the beaten egg and most of the tepid milk. Mix into a dough and beat until it begins to leave the side of the bowl. Add the fruit and peel. Turn into a warmed, greased loaf tin, cover and leave to rise for an hour or so, until almost double in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Bake the brack for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 45 minutes. Paint the top with a little milk and sugar and return to the oven for a few minutes.