I planned on bringing a loaf of Irish bread to work today.

I have made this bread so many times I can do it blindfolded.  However… the basic laws of bread-making do not change just because one decides he’s in a hurry.  I proved that last night.

I set out to make my absolute favorite yeasted fruit bread – a barmbrack.   As I said, I’ve made it for years and have never had an issue.  It has always come out perfect – until last night.

I knowingly made two very basic mistakes – and threw away the result.

I had soaked my fruit in the requisite Jameson’s for two days.  I had all my ingredients together.  I heated the cup of milk in the microwave.  Mistake number one.  It was too hot to mix with the yeast.  I could have just put it on the counter (or even the refrigerator) and walked away for a few minutes, but I was impatient.  I decided just to add the dry yeast to the flour, et al, and add the too-hot milk to it.  It would be cool enough.  But it wasn’t.

My liquid was too hot and my yeast may or may not have been good.  The end result was my impatience and failure to follow the very most basic bread-making steps ruined what should have been a magnificent loaf of bread.

Even more fun is that I talked it up at work for several days and now get to walk in empty-handed and explain that I totally screwed up.

I hate that.

Here’s the recipe in case you want to give it a try.  It really is great – when you follow the instructions.


Barmbrack is a traditional Irish spiced fruit bread.  It’s delicious sliced, toasted and buttered – or you can eat it on its own.   I found this recipe years ago and made it for my father’s cousins on St Paddy’s Day when they were visiting San Francisco.

Traditionally, the fruit is soaked overnight in 2 cups of strong Irish tea.  This recipe calls for the fruit to be soaked in 2 cups of Irish whisky overnight.  I’ve made it both ways and really prefer the whisky version the best!


  • 3 ½ cups mixed dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter (Kerrygold or Plugra European style butter!)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tsp mixed spices (allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon…)

Soak the dried fruit in 2 cups of Irish whisky overnight.

Warm the milk slightly (no more than 110°.) Stir in the teaspoon of sugar and the yeast and let proof about 10 minutes.

Mix the flour, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the butter or margarine. Add the frothy yeast, the beaten egg and the spice. Drain any remaining liquid from the fruit and add the fruit to the mixture. Mix well to make a smooth dough (add more flour if the mixture is too wet).

Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead it thoroughly.  (I use my KitchenAid and mix about 6 minutes.) Place the dough in a well-greased 8”-9” springform pan, cover with a cloth, and leave in a warm place to rise for 45 – 60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Place the pan in a preheated 350° oven and bake for about 50 minutes. The loaf will be ready when it sounds hollow when you tap on it.

Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack before serving.

Hopefully it won’t look like this.