When I had made this bread, I was a week away from my first visit to Ireland. I was so pumped to go that I wanted to make something Irish at home so I could compare it to what the “real thing” would taste like. I picked this chocolate barmbrack bread that Andrew Smyth made in season 7 of the Great British Bakeoff.
It tastes just like fall. I ordinarily do not like dried fruit at all, but the sweet chewiness of the jumbo raisins and candied orange peel pairs very well with the warming pumpkin pie spice flavors. It’s an excellent loaf of bread, but a traditional barmbrack it is not. What I had made here is a yeasted bread with chocolate. A traditional barmbrack is typically a quick bread, does NOT have chocolate in it, and is studded with a lot more tea-soaked dried fruit than what I made here.
The one thing that I didn’t do that I should have done is use bread flour. I just used all-purpose flour because that’s all I had, but as a result I had a flatter loaf. I also didn’t hand-knead this wet and sticky loaf at all, leaving it all up to my Kitchenaid dough hook, and just guesstimated when I thought it might be done.
This loaf required a couple of special ingredients that are not commonly found in American pantries. Mixed spice and candied peel, specifically. Mixed spice is used in British baking, and its American doppelganger is pumpkin pie spice. Both include cinnamon and nutmeg, sometimes cloves, ginger, and allspice. While I found candied ginger readily, I did not find candied lemon or orange peel.
So I made my own.
I used Alton Brown’s recipe, and it’s a very thoroughly-written one. It’s pretty straightforward to make, and turns what would ordinarily be tossed into the garbage into a sweet and sour crystalline treat. I made two oranges worth of candied peel and I still have a bunch leftover.
The one thing I did omit from the original recipe was the chocolate glaze; I didn’t want this bread to be *too* dessert-y. I also converted some of the ingredients/measurements into American for all ya Yanks.
Chocolate Barmbrack Bread
Adapted from BBC Food/Andrew Smyth from GBBO
300g/10½oz bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2½ tbsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp salt
8g instant yeast, or active dry yeast if you need it (modifications below)
33g/1¼oz unsalted butter, softened
66g/2½oz granulated sugar
200ml/7fl oz semi-skimmed milk
1 large egg
100g/3½oz mixed dried fruit
30g/1oz mixed candied peel
100g/3½oz Belgian milk chocolate chips
1 tbsp sunflower oil or cooking spray, for greasing
1. For the bread, line a baking tray with parchment paper and dust generously with flour.
2.Sift the flour, spice and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast on the opposite side to the salt. Add the butter and sugar. Mix using your hand in a claw position until well combined.
3. Gently warm the milk until it is warm to touch, then whisk in the egg.
Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour the milk mixture into it. Dust your hands with flour and mix using your hand as before, until the dough comes together. It will form a very wet dough. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes in the bowl (use a dough scraper if you have one), or until the dough starts to tighten (though it will still be sticky). Regularly scrape off any dough stuck to your hands.
4. Flour the work surface and your hands. Spread the dough out in a rough rectangle and add the dried fruit, candied peel and chocolate into the middle of the dough. Knead for a further 2 minutes to incorporate.
5. Place the dough on the prepared tray and shape into an oval. Lightly dust with flour and cover with oiled cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove for an hour or until doubled in size.
6. Preheat the oven to 380F.
7. Once the dough is proved, remove the cling film and slash once lengthways across the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 40 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven, rotating the tray midway through cooking to ensure you get an even crust (the loaf should be a dark-brown colour). If the bottom edges brown too early, wrap a strip of aluminium foil around the loaf.
*If you end up using active dry yeast, mix the yeast and the warm milk and a tablespoon of the allotted sugar and allow to rest for five minutes until you see bubbles on the surface. Proceed with whisking in the egg after, then mix with the rest of the dry ingredients and butter.