See the recipe for Tea Brack or Brack, this bit is just for fun!

Barmbrack is the center of an Irish Halloween custom. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, "to beat one's wife with", would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be wed within the year. Commercially produced barmbracks for the Halloween market still include a toy ring.

The Sign of the Cross

Irish Soda Bread, both White and Brown is traditionally made by hand in a round shape. A deep cross is cut through the bread, before cooking, to let the fairies out!


This is a basic recipe for Brack or Tea Brack. If you are making Barmbrack for halloween, check out this post on all the extra ingredients you'll need!


  • 250 g of white flour
  • 15g of dried baker's yeast
  • 50 g of fine white sugar
  • 1 fl of warm milk
  • half a teaspoon of allspice or mixed cinnamon and nutmeg
  • half a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 small egg
  • 50g of unsalted butter
  • 50g of mixed peel
  • 60g of mixed raisins and sultanas.


Soak the dried fruit overnight in weak tea, for an authentic taste - hence the name "Tea Brack"

Warm the milk a little, then stir the yeast and one teaspoon of the sugar into two tablespoonfuls of the milk, and let rise for ten minutes.

Melt the butter and let it cool.

Sift the flour, the allspice and the salt into a bowl, and add the rest of the sugar. Pour in the rest of the milk, and the yeast mixture as before.

Beat the egg with a fork, mix with the butter, add to the bowl, stir a little, and knead the mixture for 5 minutes until the dough is elastic and no longer sticks to the bowl. Cover with a wet cloth and let rise in a warm place for one hour.

Dry the mixed peel and fruit, chop the mixed peel up into small sections, roll in a little flour, add the mixed peel and the fruit and knead the mixture vigorously.

Butter a baking tin and spread the mixture evenly into it. Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 220°C, put the mixture in to bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190 °C and bake a little longer.

Let the barmbrack repose for 15 minutes after taking it out of the oven before extracting it from the tin, and allow to cool thoroughly before cutting. Serve with tea and butter.

Butter Milk

Buttermilk is the liquid left over after producing butter from full-cream milk during the churning process. It has a slightly sour taste.

It is quite popular as a refreshment in India. Many breads are made with buttermilk and back in Ireland it is used with Bread-Soda to rise dough.

Bread Soda

Bread Soda, also know as baking soda, saleratus, or bicarbonate of soda is widely used in Irish Bread making as a raising agent.

When mixed with Butter-Milk, cardon dioxide is released that helps dough rise. This combination is most ofenly used in White Soda Bread and in Brown Bread. When used in White/Brown Soda bread, the bread soda gives has a slightly yellow hue to the cooked bread - if the bread turns out too yellow looking then you've probably used too much Bread Soda, too little and the bread won't rise. Of equal importance to the amount, is the sieving - the bread soda can't have any lumps and must be evenly spread otherwise you end up with brown/burnt spots in the your bread, uugghhh.

White Scones

I remember coming in from school and there were always warm scones as a snack. With as knob of butter... delicious.

This recipe makes 18-20 scones using a 72 cm (3inch) cutter(*)

  • 900g (2lb) plain white flour
  • 170g (6oz) butter
  • 3 free range eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 55g (2oz) castor sugar
  • 3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
  • 450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix

(*) I don't have a fancy cutter - I use a glass!

For glaze:
  • egg wash (see below)

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to about 22cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with home made jam and a blob of whipped cream or just butter and jam.

Finally, see my Tips for even better scones....

Irish Soda Bread


  • 1 lb (450g/3¼ cups) white flour, preferably unbleached
  • 1 level teaspoon/½ American teaspoon salt
  • 1 level teaspoon/½ American teaspoon breadsoda
  • Sour milk or buttermilk to mix - 12-14 fl ozs (350-412 ml) approx.


Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 20-30 minutes to bake. For the novice, it's a great way to start baking!

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8.
Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Knead lightly for a second, just enough to tidy it up, flip over. Pat the dough into a round about 1½ inches (2.5cm) deep and cut a cross. Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses. It's also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.


We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses. It's also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.

Also try different shapes and of course, you can make soda bread scones!