Many of us with a pagan outlook on the world look to the Celtic traditions for our seasonal celebrations. With that in mind, I dug out a traditional Irish recipe that was made at this time of year. It's part celebratory food, part divination.
Barm Brack, (from the Gaelic báirín breac, or ‘speckled loaf), is a bread that is packed with various fruits and baked with small silver charms inside. Inside you could find a pea (you would not marry that year). A stick (an unhappy marriage). A piece of cloth (Bad luck, or poverty). A coin (good luck, or riches). A ring (you would marry that year).
As you can imagine people would be very careful about which slice they chose. Modern store bought Barm Brack often just contains the ring.
If you are going to include charms in your Barm Brack make sure that you use genuine silver charms, these will not leech chemicals into your baking.
- Heat the oven to 400 F/ /200 C
- Place the yeast in the lukewarm water, add the teaspoon of sugar, stir and leave to one side.
- Put the flour into a large roomy, baking bowl and add the butter and salt. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it forms sand-like crumbs. Work quickly to prevent the butter becoming too warm.
- Add the peel, raisins, and the sugar to the flour mixture and stir.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture. Work the mixture together to form a soft dough.
- Knead the dough on a floured worktop for 10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Place back into the bowl. Cover with a clean tea cloth and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size - about 1 hour.
- Return the mixture to the worktop and divide in two. Knead each half for another few minutes then form into two rounds, each approximately 7 inches in diameter. Place covered on a greased baking sheet and leave to rise for another hour.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a rack.
The magical energies of this loaf are exactly what you would expect when you are looking forward to a long dark winter. It contains wishes for protection and strength, for fertility and prosperity. With a healthy dose of love and revelation in there.
- dried yeast - grounding, purification
- sugar - love
- plain flour - revealing hidden matters, consistency
- salt - cleansing & purification, grounding, protection
- butter - smoothing relationships, spirituality, tenacity
- raisins - mental powers, sun energy
- candied peel - Prosperity
- eggs - fertility, lust, protection, spirituality, strength