Irish Barmbrack (Báirín Breac)

This traditional Irish Barmbrack recipe is destined to become a family favorite.  Sliced, toasted and buttered, barmbrack is the ULTIMATE Irish cinnamon raisin bread!

Be sure to also try our traditional Bara Brith, Wales’ traditional tea bread that’s studded with plump raisins soaked in tea and flavored with candied citrus and fragrant spices!

barmbrack recipe traditional authentic irish cinnamon raisin bread

What is Barmbrack?

It is the Irish version of the tastiest cinnamon raisin bread you’ve ever had!  Barmbrack, also known as Barm Brack, is known in Gaelic as báirín breac, meaning “speckled loaf” because of the raisins.  It shares a similar etymology to Welsh Bara Brith

This traditional Irish sweetened bread is enjoyed all year round in Ireland but is particularly popular during Halloween where it’s accompanied by the tradition of hiding various items inside the loaf, each with its own significance.  If you found a ring you were destined to marry within a year (that’s assuming the person is single  – we can only hope or things could get really complicated); a pea meant you’d remain single; a stick meant you were doomed to an unhappy marriage (I don’t like the direction this is going); cloth meant poverty lied on the horizon (this is starting to get depressing); and the coin prophesied good fortune or riches (that’s a little better); a medallion meant you’d become a monk or in my case a nun (I’ll take the slice with the coin, thanks).

barmbrack recipe traditional authentic irish cinnamon raisin bread

For sanitary reasons it’s most common today to include only the ring or the coin, which is fine by me since food should be a happy thing anyway!

And speaking of happiness, that’s exactly what you can expect while eating Barmbrack.  The chewy texture, the sweet raisins, the hint of lemon and the subtle warm spices…yes, barmbrack is a loaf of happiness.

And if you really want to up the happiness factor then slice, toast and butter it…it’s heaven!

Even Van Morrison praised it in “A Sense of Wonder” when he sang

Pastie suppers down at Davey’s chipper Gravy rings, barmbracks Wagon wheels, snowballs.

A sense of wonder is right:  absolutely incredible sliced and toasted, barmbrack is the like the ultimate cinnamon raisin bread!

barmbrack recipe traditional authentic irish cinnamon raisin bread

Barmbrack goes back several centuries and while modern adaptations include such additions as whiskey and black tea, traditionally barmbrack was quite simple and made use of more readily available ingredients.

It was something even the poorest families could make, using freshly milled flour and dried currants from the garden.  And after a long day in the fields you could come home to a highly anticipated loaf of freshly baked barmbrack; the perfect way to end the day.

Irish thatched cottage

Patryk Kosmider/Shutterstock

Of the oldest recipes I researched, none of them included tea or candied citrus peel and only one included whiskey.  In this recipe I’m making the tea and whiskey optional for a flavor boost.

Candied lemon peel is a really nice addition but ONLY if you use homemade.  There’s a reason many/most people hate store-bought candied citrus peel:  It’s awful.  Homemade on the other hand…it is AMAZING and will do wonders for your baked goods.  Trust me.  Make it.  Use it.  You’ll thank me.  Here’s the recipe:  Homemade Candied Lemon Peel.

candied orange peel recipe homemade

Barmbrack can be made in a variety of shapes; rounds, ovals, square loaves, both large and small.  Traditionally it would have been baked in rounds and chunks of it would be broken off and eaten.  My preference is to bake it in a loaf so it can be sliced and toasted – my favorite way to eat it.

However you choose to shape and serve it, you’ll love this wonderful traditional Irish bread…sure to become a family favorite!

barmbrack recipe traditional authentic irish cinnamon raisin bread

Barmbrack Recipe

Let’s get started!

Place the currants and raisins in a bowl and pour over the cold tea (or water).  Let soak for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Drain and reserve the liquid for later.

soaking raisins and currants

Stir the yeast and teaspoon of sugar in the lukewarm milk.  Let it sit for 10 minutes until nice and frothy.

In a stand mixer place the flour, sugar, spices and salt and stir to combine.  Make a well and add the melted butter, egg, lemon zest and yeast mixture.

combining dry and wet ingredients

Use the dough hook to knead until just combined.  The dough will be very thick (do not add more liquid at this point because the wet currants/raisins will be added).

Add drained currants and raisins and candied lemon peel.  Knead until combined, adding some of the reserved currant/raisin juice until a soft dough forms.  mixing dried fruits in dough

Scrape down the dough from the sides of the bowl.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 90-120 minutes or until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough.

kneading the dough

If making two smaller loaves, divide the dough in half and shape into rounds.  If making one large loaf (as pictured below), place the dough in a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.

Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for another hour or longer until nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake the barmbrack on the middle rack for 50-60 minutes (less if making two smaller loaves) or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from oven and while hot brush the loaf with the reserved currant/raisins juice for more flavor, moistness and a nice sheen and let cool.

baking the bread

Slice and serve.  Barmbrack is especially good toasted and spread with butter.


barmbrack recipe traditional authentic irish cinnamon raisin bread

For some more delicious treats enjoyed throughout Ireland be sure to try our:

And learn how to make your own Golden Syrup!

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet February 27, 3019

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