Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Irish Tea Cake – Was this Barmbrack Wack?

Every year I try to post at least one Irish recipe, and this time around I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary, and try my hand at Barmbrack. I love corned beef and cabbage as much as the next guy, but you can only film it so many different ways. Anyway, the thought of a nice, moist, dense, fruity tea cake for breakfast, with a cup of hot, black tea, sounded just about perfect, and so I started researching this ancient loaf…and researching…and researching, until I had seen and read so many recipes that I didn’t know which direction to go.

There are a huge variety of styles, from light, yeast-raised versions, to super-dense ones, similar to the often-maligned holiday fruitcake. So, I decided to just wing it, and use the force, which usually works out well, but this time, not so much. This is traditionally a Halloween treat, and my experience was equal parts trick and treat.

I’m hearing from my Irish friends on YouTube that I should have probably used baking soda, plus more tea to get a little more rise. They also say that using half wholegrain flour will inhibit the verticality as well. Notwithstanding my results, at the very least, I’ve hopefully made some of you aware of barmbrack, and maybe you’ll give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for one 9” x 5” loaf pan:
2 cups warm black tea
1⁄2 cup golden raisins
1⁄2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried currants
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole grain flour (I’m told this makes the loaf a lot heavier, so maybe use all regular flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I’m told I should’ve probably added a teaspoon of baking soda)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1⁄4 cup milk
2 tablespoons reserved black tea
1 tablespoon Irish whiskey or any whiskey
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons melted butter


Unknown said...

i just sent you a comment about my dad being in the cia... i mean the culinary cia. but im not sure which one i clicked!

Unknown said...

I really enjoy this not-so-perfect video!! I'm kinda happy even my favorite respected Chef John puzzles sometimes. ;))

Unknown said...

Hey, if we never tried anything new, it'd be a boring cooking/baking world! And thanks for being brave enough to publish your sort-of failure. And besides, there's a bonus in that - laughter...

Chris said...

Maybe a little baking powder and or Soda?

Chris said...

Also I would add some walnuts too.

Douglas Schmidt said...

Hey, thanks for the recipe, I'll try tonight. Lol'd with the video as well :D
How much butter did you add? It's missing on the recipe. Looks like 2 or 3 spoons.

As always, thanks :)

Unknown said...

CJ: I think you missed the cayenne :)

Cyber_3 said...

(whips out Grandma's beloved delicious fruit'n'nut cake recipe) I'm going to second the baking soda instead of baking powder as well, but definitely, I would have thought at least 2, if not 3 eggs for this size of loaf. And you could use the "separating the eggs and folding the whites in at the end" method if you want even more rise but it will enough with just adding more eggs whole. By the way, if you would rather eat this with coffee instead of tea, add that instead because this really is the type of recipe that benefits from the "enhances taste of dish with some of the accompaniment in it", though I don't think the fruit would be good soaked in it (use juice or the whisky). My Grandma would use coffee, prune juice, molasses, and some rum/brandy, as well as some leftover jam in her recipes - I guess she wanted to cover all the bases XD.

Brian said...

I grew up in Ireland and ate Barmbrack all the time. I'm old but I don't think that old to make the name ancient.

Over there it is definitely a yeast bread and surprisingly light.

I tried making it recently from a different recipe (yeast) and it came out pretty much the same as yours. Looked pretty bad yet tasted really good. I intend to try again and modify the quantity of fruit to see if I can get it lighter.

When it's a few days old try toasting with butter -delicious.

More Cowbell said...

Um, where are the instructions? There is an arrow of sorts after the ingredients, but it goes nowhere.

loved to life said...

Will share this with my Irish cousins for St Paddy's Day...it looks good.
Reminds me of a cake we made in Scotland. It had LOTS of sugar
I have a question about a recipe I have been working on is there a contact email I could send it to?

Douglas Schmidt said...

I did it and it is really good. It got a little bit dry and lose. Any tips to make it firmer and wetter? Maybe add more tea?

Taliver Heath said...

I have no idea what this tastes like cool.

I do know it really came out well, and I swapped the milk with buttermilk to encourage a bit of a rise with the powder and soda.

Marilyn said...

I have a food wish - English currant cake or bread using fresh or frozen currants. The only ones I can find online use weights and measures unfamiliar to me.

Unknown said...

Made mine with 2 teaspoons of fast acting yeast and a teaspoon of sugar. Rose perfectly I am pleased to say.

WinsorKnots said...

I made this from the recipe video with the changes Chef John recommended. I really enjoyed making it and it was delicious. I used 4Tbs of tea and added the extra baking soda. It rose nicely. I will make it again and again. Very nice buttered with coffee or tea. I have a picture.