Bairín Breac (Barm Brack)
February 1: Feast Day of St. Brigid
When we first moved into our new home in San Antonio, Texas, back in 2008, one of the first Catholic churches we attended was the nearby parish of St. Brigid. We were still adjusting to our new neighborhood, finding where the grocery stores, post office, clinics, churches, etc. were located. Although we attended St. Brigid’s temporarily before becoming members at another church, we always remembered the Irish saint’s unique cross design, which has been incorporated into the parish’s logo.
St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland, (451-525 A.D.) is considered the female counterpart of St. Patrick (in fact, he witnessed her vows as a nun). St. Brigid founded monasteries, schools and convents around her country and is known for her many charitable works.
In observance of the Feast Day of St. Brigid, we made a traditional Irish barm brack, a rustic yeast bread/loaf speckled with raisins. As she is associated with dairy cows, it is customary to eat barm brack with lots of creamy Irish butter! Bain taitneamh as do bhéile (enjoy your meal).
(Adapted from “Cooking with the Saints” by Ernst Schuegraf)
- 1 ¼ cup old tea (we used Irish breakfast tea)
- 2 cups raisins (1 cup each of regular AND golden)
- 1 cup currants
- ¼ cup mixed candied peel
- ¼ cup candied cherries (we used the green colored ones in honor of the Emerald Isle)
- 1 ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 ¾ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 egg
In a large bowl, pour the tea over the raisins and currants, cover and soak overnight to plump them up and add flavor. In the same bowl, stir in the candied peel.
Add the cherries. Mix in the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, allspice and egg.
Line a 1-pound loaf pan with parchment paper, letting some extra hang over the edge to act as handles later. Grease it well before patting the barm brack mixture down in the pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Slice and serve generously with Irish butter.
- Irish barm brack does not taste like an English Christmas fruit cake. It is less sweet. We like our slices of barm brack lightly toasted but smothered in lots of creamy Irish butter!
- Below is a photo of a pin of St. Brigid’s cross, which was taken at the souvenir shop across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. We were visiting our friends during spring break one year and went with Gaurab B. to Midtown Manhattan for the day (while he attended meetings for work, we enjoyed touring the town!). Coincidentally, we stayed with him and his family at their New Jersey home and baked a special cake for his wife, Maria, who was blessed with celebrating her birthday on St. Patrick’s Day!