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Catholic Recipe: Barm Brack


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup milk (tepid)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped peel


Prep Time: 4 hours

Difficulty: • • •

Cost: $$$$

For Ages:11+

Origin: Ireland


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Also Called: Barinbreac, Barmbrack

The Irish love to sing at their work. Ancient Gaelic songs for all kinds of work may still be heard at the annual Feis ("fesh" or festival) in big cities. There are songs for milking and for gathering honey, spinning songs and carding songs. Their rhythm always follows the motions of the body. So it isn't surprising when Maura Laverty in her Cookbook recommends any song in waltz time for the kneading of Barm Brack, a traditional Irish bread for St. Brigid's Day on February 1. It is a wholesome golden loaf sparkling with a shining sugar glaze.


Warm milk until it is lukewarm. Melt butter in it. Cream yeast with 1 tablespoon of sugar and add 1/2 tepid milk mixture. Add beaten egg. Sift cinnamon with flour into a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour the yeast mixture into it. Sprinkle with flour and leave in a warm place until yeast forms a honeycomb.

Mix to a dough with remainder of the milk. Turn onto a floured board. Knead into mixture 5 tablespoons of sugar, 3/4 cup of raisins, 1/4 cup of currants, and 4 tablespoons of chopped peel. The fineness of texture of yeast bread depends upon thorough kneading. It is a one, two, three movement, and to do it properly, you must get rhythm into it. Miss Laverty writes: "I find it helps me to sing 'Red, red roses' as I knead." Put the bread into a bowl, brush it with butter, cover, and leave in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Knead again, put into greased pans, brush with butter, and cover until doubled in bulk again. Bake 40 minutes at 450┬░ F. (hot oven). A few minutes before the cooking is finished, take the Brack from the oven, brush with egg white, sprinkle with fine sugar, and return to the oven for a minute or two.

Recipe Source: Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota