Glossary entry for
barmbrack

A barmbrack (sometimes spelled "barnbrack") is a kind of yeasted raisin bread/cake which was traditional at Halloween in Ireland. The name comes probably from Gaelic, "bairin breac", which means little speckled cake, although perhaps also derived from "barm", an old word for yeast.

What was neat about it is that it had several unusual ingredients - a pea, a bean, a little piece of cloth (symbolizing a rag), a stick and a ring. If you got the rag, you were destined to be poor; the pea meant you'd be an old maid; the bean a batchelor; the stick a wife-beater and the ring meant you would be wed within the year. Difficult to decide which is the worst fate when you're only 5 or 6!

You can get barmbrack all year round now of course - try Bewley's version the next time you're in Dublin.

Belfast suppers would as easily feature a slice of barmbrack as anywhere else in Ireland.

Barmbrack, along with snowballs etc. are still sold in Belfast at a number of older local bakery shops.

Contributed by Mike Burns; photograph contributed by East Belfast's own Maurice Kinkead

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