Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween: Barmbrack Bread

Happy Halloween, Crushers!

Our office has a Halloween challenge where groups of employees are allowed to take some time to decorate the area by their cubicles and then we all "trick or treat" visiting each other's cubicles or set ups. It's really fun and makes the afternoon go by quickly. Everyone has a sugar crash by the end of the day! This was a huge team effort, so thanks to all my co-workers for doing an amazing job!

Photo: Sarah Smith
Since my client is an international one, we decided to see how people celebrate Halloween or other ghoulish holidays around the world. We picked Ireland, where the Celts are supposedly the first to celebrate. The rituals and celebrations focused on Samhain, a festival celebrated over night of October 31 around harvest time seem to have evolved into Halloween. Beltane bonfires were lit, turnips were carved (eventually turning into jack-o-lanterns as we know them), and Barmbrack Bread was eaten.

Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith

In Mexico and many other countries, celebrate Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Again, this is a day to gather with family and friends to pray for and remember relatives who have died. Skeletons and marigolds are familiar things to see around homes, cemeteries and altars. Lots of meals are shared and one special item, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), is shared by family and friends near the gravesides of the deceased.
Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith
In China around August, a festival called Yu Lan, or the Ghost Festival, is when the deceased is said to come visit the living. People will provide food to hungry ghost visitors and even set empty places at the table for the ghosts. There is lots of food!

Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith

I was in charge of bringing pumpkins for the Ireland set up and making barmbrack. Here is the recipe that I used (it's made in two stages and traditionally has trinkets baked inside, but I skipped the trinkets):

Barmbrack Bread

First stage
Mix together:

1 cup of sultanas

1 cup of raisins

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup cold tea
Cover these ingredients and leave to soak overnight (or in my case, a few hours).
Stage Two
Prepare these ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 level teaspoon of baking powder

1 egg beaten

1 teaspoon mixed spice
1. Add the four, baking powder and spice to soaked fruit mixture.
2. Mix in the beaten egg.
3. Spoon into a well greased loaf tin and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit). If you're making it in cupcake form like I did for work, bake it at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.
4. When cool brush the top with warmed honey for a glazed surface.

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