I first tasted barmbrack when my friend Sandy Leonard brought some back from a trip to Ireland. I found an interesting recipe and included it in one of my books, but later found that I had erroneously used eggs in the dough. A real barmbrack is an enriched and sweetened bread. It has some butter and sugar added along with raisins and candied peel. It’s perfect as a breakfast or brunch bread, since it’s neither too rich nor too sweet, and it certainly deserves the nickname I gave it long ago: the panettone of Ireland.
Makes one tall 9-inch loaf
1 cup room-temperature tap water, about 75°F
3 teaspoons granulated active dry or instant yeast
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled
5 cups unbleached bread flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, and ground cloves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
3⁄4 cup currants
1⁄2 cup diced candied orange peel
One 2 1/2-inch-deep, 9-inch-round springform pan, buttered and the bottom lined with a disk of parchment paper
1. Whisk the water and yeast together in a small mixing bowl; whisk in the cooled milk and set aside.
2. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place on the mixer fitted with the paddle and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute, adding the butter in 5 or 6 additions. Mix until the butter is no longer visible.
3. Switch to the dough hook and add the yeast mixture to the bowl. Beat on the lowest speed until the dough comes together around the hook, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Increase the speed to medium and beat the dough until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes longer.
5. Decrease the speed to the lowest and add the raisins, currants, and orange peel a little at a time. Mix until the fruit is evenly distributed, about 2 minutes.
6. Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it so that the top is oiled. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
7. Invert the dough to a lightly floured work surface and round it by pulling the sides and folding them over toward the center. Invert the dough to the pan, smooth side upward, and cover it with a piece of oiled or sprayed plastic wrap. Let the barmbrack proof until it fills the pan, about 1 hour, depending on the temperature of the room.
8. About 30 minutes before the barmbrack is fully proofed, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375˚F. Bake the barmbrack until it is well risen and dark golden, about 1 hour.
9. Invert to a rack, turn right side up, and cool completely. Serve the barmbrack on the day it’s baked with butter and marmalade.