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A cover photo of several slices of baked gluten-free savoury biscotti

Brambrack is a delicious traditional Irish Halloween treat served warm with a generous spread of butter and paired perfectly with a cup of tea.

About Brambrack

Brambrack is a rich and moist tea cake full of tea-soaked dried raisins, lemon & orange peel and mixed spices.

This cake is known in Ireland as Bairín Breac, which means “speckled bread” as in speckled with dried fruit.

It is traditional to serve Brambrack during Halloween in Ireland with some interesting customs that are still carried out to this day. For those who follow this tradition, different charms are placed randomly in the homemade tea cake. The most common charms are a ring (to be married soon), a coin (for good fortune), a thimble (possible spinsterhood) a piece of fabric (bad fortune), a pea (no marriage in sight!) and a matchstick (disputes in a marriage). Naturally, the coin and ring are the most popular charms to receive compared to the other gloomy ones.

Nowadays, very few bakeries in Ireland are keen to place charms or trinkets for fear of getting complaints or law suits for missing or cracked teeth, or even choking!

Al the ingredients needed to make gluten-free brambrack

TIPS

Soak the dried fruit for 24 hours

This long marinade in cold brewed tea is important to get that special, rich flavour.

Use fresh tea leaves

Avoid using tea bags and aim for breakfast or afternoon black tea leaves to brew in freshly boiled water for at least 10 mins. Sieve the tea into a jug over the dried fruit to marinate.

The brewed tea prepared for the dried fruit marinade
For those who like whisky!

The addition of whisky is popular, but before you grab a bottle to pour it in the batter, double-check the label for any potential gluten ingredients. If all is clear, add a tablespoon or two of whisky when adding the tea liquid to the batter. Although whisky is more traditional to use, substituting it with Limoncello or Cointreau works in this cake as they complement the dried fruit.

The best loaf tin to use

My first choice of loaf tin to use to bake Brambrack is a Pullman’s Loaf pan/tin to get that even shape and gloss. Apart from this, I would suggest using only a metal or non-stick loaf tin to get the same results. Using either a silicon or ceramic loaf tin will give it a lumpier finish and a lacklustre coating.

Mixed spices

I have listed the five spices used which are typically found in a Mixed Spice blend, so if you happen to have a store-bought jar of it, add up the measurements from the recipe card and substitute it with this.

Fresh yeast versus dried active yeast

In this recipe, I prefer to use fresh yeast as it imparts a richer yeast flavour and a good rise to the tea bread.

A mug of fermented fresh yeast and milk to add to the gluten-free brambrack
A word about the dough

At the final stages of beating the dough for 10 mins either with a wooden spoon or in a benchtop stand mixer, it is important to note that the dough will be stiff and thick. Once the raisins and peel are added, the tea that was absorbed during the 24 hours, will moisten and loosen the dough while rising and baking.

Improving the flavour

Keeping the Brambrack for 2 days covered in plastic and a tea towel at room temperature before slicing it, will improve its flavour.

Converting it to a gluten-free Brambrack

Replacing gluten-plain flour with several different gluten-free flours and starches gives the Brambrack enough structure and texture. The addition of almond meal or flour gives it a richer flavour. If you have a favourite store-bought gluten-free flour blend, use this in place of all the listed flour and starches. Check to see if your blend already has xanthan gum or another binder included.

Otherwise adding xanthan gum or psyllium husk as binders is important but not vital. I tried it with and without. The only difference with not using a binder is that the Brambrack slice was crumbly. However, if you were to keep the Brambrack cake wrapped up for 2 days, the crumbling is less noticeable. Personally, I would use the binder if you intend to eat the cake on the same day as baking.

An adobe photo of gluten-free savoury biscotti

Gluten-Free Brambrack (Irish Tea Cake)

by Sandra - Fun Without Gluten
Brambrack is a delicious, rich tea cake full of tea-soaked raisins, lemon & orange peel and mixed spices.
This moist and aromatic cake is enjoyed all year round, but traditionally as an Irish Halloween treat served warm with a generous spread of butter and paired perfectly with a cup of tea.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 1 d 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 5 mins
Dough Rising Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 d 2 hrs 35 mins
Course baking, Halloween, Snack
Cuisine Irish
Servings 12 slices

Ingredients
  

Dried Fruit Marinade:

  • 350 ml cold brewed tea made from breakfast or afternoon (Irish if possible!) tea leaves
  • 80 g mixed peel (lemon and orange peel)
  • 250 g raisins or a mixture of currants and raisins

Yeast mixture:

  • 15 g fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp milk warmed slightly

Dry Ingredients:

  • 150 g cornflour
  • 150 g tapioca flour
  • 100 g brown or white rice flour
  • 50 g almond meal
  • 1 tbsp potato starch
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • or
  • 1 tsp psyllium husk powder
  • tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 55 g light brown sugar

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 65 g butter at room temperature

Extra

  • butter for greasing and serving with
  • egg yolk for the glaze

Instructions
 

Marinating dried fruit

  • Brew the tea for 10 mins.
  • Allow the tea to cool before adding the required measurement of liquid to the mixed peel and raisins in a jug.
    The brewed tea prepared for the dried fruit marinade
  • Chill for 24 hours.
    The dried fruit marinating in the cold brewed tea

Preparation

  • Blend the fresh yeast with sugar and warm milk, cover and leave to react for 15 mins in a warm place.
    A mug of fermented fresh yeast and milk to add to the gluten-free brambrack
  • Grease the loaf tin and line it with baking paper by measuring the outside of the tin as shown in the photo.
    Technique to line the loaf tin by fitting and folding it on the outside of the tin
  • Sift the flour, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the light brown sugar, yeast mixture, eggs and butter to it. Combine briefly.
    Mixing the wet and dry ingredients to make gluten-free brambrack
  • Drain the cold brewed tea from the dried fruit over the flour mixture, leaving the dried fruit to one side.
    Draining the tea from the dried fruit mixture into the dough
  • Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture for approx. 10 mins until stiff or use a benchtop stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and beat at medium-low speed.
    Mixing the brambrack batter
  • Fold in the dried fruit.
    A final mix of all the ingredients to make gluten-free brambrack
  • Transfer the batter to the loaf tin and cover with a damp tea towel to rise for one hour in a warm area.
    The gluten-free brambrack batter in the tin

Baking

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  • Bake for one hour on the middle shelf. Halfway through baking, cover the loaf with some foil.
  • After one hour of baking, brush some beaten egg yolk on the top of the barmbrack and bake for a final 5 mins without the foil.
    Brushing the baked brambrack with the egg yolk to get a glaze
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool down
    A loaf tin with baked gluten-free brambrack inside
  • Serve warm or at room temperature with soft butter and a cup of tea.

Notes

  • Keeping the Brambrack for 2 days covered in plastic and a tea towel at room temperature before slicing it, will improve its flavour.
  • After these two days, it keeps for 5 days in an airtight container.
  • Suitable to freeze whole or in slices.
Keyword gluten-free brambrack, gluten-free halloween treat, gluten-free irish tea cake, gluten-free tea cake
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by | Oct 30, 2022 | Baking, Breakfast, Snacks | 2 comments

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