Barmbrack with cider-soaked fruit

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This barmbrack recipe proves how easy it is to make the simple Irish sweetened bread, studded with dried fruit. Perfect with a cup of strong tea and slathered with butter and jam.

To discover more about Northern Irish cuisine and for more of Chloë's recipes from the country, take a look at her feature.

First published in 2020

The name barmbrack is from the Irish bairín, or loaf, and breac, meaning speckled. It has also been said that it may derive from the old English beorma, meaning fermented or yeasty, from which originates the word barmy. Whichever name you find more persuasive, you’re guaranteed to go mad for this delicious bread that is possibly best described as an Irish panettone. This version uses cider but more often the braic would be made with fruit steeped in strong black tea.





  • 7g of fast-action dried yeast
  • 60ml of milk, warm
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 50g of soft brown sugar
  • 240g of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 80g of salted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • butter, for greasing
  • 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

Cider-soaked fruit


  • Loaf tin


The night before you plan to serve the loaf, heat the cider to a simmer and pour over the mixed dried fruits. Leave to steep overnight, or for 48 hours if you have time
Activate the yeast by combining it with the warm milk and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Set aside for 5–10 minutes
While the yeast gets going, sift the flour and spices and combine with the soft sugar. Make a well in the centre for the beaten egg, melted butter and activated yeast. Bring the wet and dry ingredients together to form a soft, supple dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface
Strain the fruit, discarding the unabsorbed cider or saving it for other culinary experiments!
Knead the dough gently for a few minutes until the dough starts to feel smooth, then begin to combine the strained fruit, a small handful at a time. Keep the surface well-floured and go gently while adding the fruit. You don’t want the dough to be too wet or to be forced to add too much extra flour. Keep softly kneading the dough and folding in the fruit until it is evenly distributed and the ball is smooth with a soft sheen
Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl and leave covered with a damp cloth to prove in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size
Prepare a 2lb loaf tin by greasing with butter and covering with a thin dusting of flour
When the dough has completed its first prove, punch down and knead for a minute or so before re-shaping to fit your loaf tin, ensuring the top is smooth and any folds in the dough are at the bottom. Leave to rise in the tin for a further 30 minutes while preheating an oven to 200°C/gas mark 5
Apply an egg wash to the risen dough and place in the hot oven with a separate pan of hot water to create some steam. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until the loaf comes out clean and sounds hollow when you tap it. Leave to cool on a wire rack then slice and serve with or without butter

Writer and illustrator Chloe King is founder of the food lovers’ book club Cook the Books.

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