Catholic Recipe: Barmbrack
Also Called: Barinbreac; Barnbreak; Barm Brack
The first feast in February is that of Saint Bridget, known lovingly in her own land as "Mary of the Gael." According to the scholars the name is rightly Brigit, but the common spelling is Bridget, and hers is the name borne by more girls in Ireland than any save one, that of Mary. In many legends she is associated with Saint Patrick, who is said to have baptized her and who had her help in converting Ireland; when he died it was she who stitched his shroud. Born about 450, she founded the nunnery of Kildare, the first on Irish soil.
St. Bridget is well known not only in Irish households but also in English, for she was a favorite saint in the Britain of an early day. In London an ancient well, named Saint Bride's Well in her honor, lent its name to the nearby Brideswell Palace which Edward VI turned into a workhouse for the poor in later years.
On her feast special cakes were served with ale, called Barinbreac, and sometimes Barmbrack or Barnbreak.
Rub the butter into the flour which has been sifted with the soda. Add the currants and the caraway seeds and a very little sugar. Add sufficient buttermilk to make a wet dough — one that will drop into the pan. Bake at 300° F. for two hours.Recipe Source: Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951