Thursday, October 11, 2007

Samhain Barm Brack

We in the United States get our Halloween traditions from Ireland, where the celebration began as Oíche Samhain, or Samhain Night, which signaled the end of harvest and time to settle in for the winter. This “feast of the dead” featured preparing traditional Irish foods, dressing in costumes and carving jack-o’-lanterns from turnips (in the States we substitute pumpkins, which are more plentiful here).
Barm brack is a traditional treat prepared for Halloween in Ireland.
The word barm comes from an old English word, beorma, meaning yeasty fermented liquor. Brack comes from the Irish word brac, meaning speckled - which it is, with dried fruit and candied peel. Hallowe'en has always been associated with fortune telling and divination, so various objects are wrapped up and hidden in the cake mixture — a wedding ring, a coin, a pea or a thimble (signifying spinsterhood). After dark children dress up, often as witches or ghosts in hats and masks and black shawls, light turnip lanterns in the windows and go from house to house collecting fruits and nuts.

Barm Brack

4 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 c. soft dark brown sugar
1 stick butter melted
1 1/4 lukewarm milk
1 egg lightly beaten
1 c. golden raisins
1 c. currents

One each wrapped in foil

Ring/early marriage, or continued happiness if already married
Silver Coin/wealth
Chip of wood/stormy marriage
Rag (or a pea) poverty

Butter two 7 inch round cake pans. Mix the dry ingredients, including yeast in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Mix butter, milk, and egg and turn into bowl with dry ingredients. Mix throughly to make a thick, smooth dough. Work in the fruit and mix well.
Divide and put into pans. Press ring etc. into dough. Cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to an hour to rise. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When dough has doubled in size bake for 45 minutes or until it is shinking slightly from sides of pans. Remove and glaze. Return to oven 3 minutes

1 Tbps sugar
2 Tbsp boiling water

This cake is served as a means of divination. Finding one of the objects listed is a way of telling your future...

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