GET into the spirit of Halloween with a slice of delicious brack.
Even more warming when toasted, leftovers are good to use in a bread-and-butter pudding, or placed in the oven with a slice of apple and baked for 20 minutes at 180C, gas 4. It’s also good toasted and served with rich, chicken liver paté — try it and see.
To begin, we tasted the bracks untoasted and looked for the best flavour, good quality fruit, and crumb that was tasty and wasn’t papery.
When we toasted them, they all improved hugely, but those direct from bakery shops (with a shorter shelf life) were much better than those with soya flour and preservatives.
The texture should be a cross between a bread and a cake, but not over-sweet. A 40g slice has about 120 calories and tastes light, and so is not very satisfying.
While barm brack has some healthy ingredients, don’t be tempted to have more than a slice, and watch the butter quantity.
All samples were Irish-made and most contained at least one traditional charm.
The ring signifies that you will marry, the pea that you won’t, the bean that you will be rich, and the stick that you will have an unhappy marriage with lots of arguing.
Hassett’s Bakery €3.95
Contains ring, pea, bean and stick and has a thick dusting of icing sugar (and available with sticky sugar glaze). This brack was the best one toasted. Highly spiced and darker in colour than other bracks, it has good peel and fruit and a traditional, bread-like texture enriched with a hint of real butter. A simple list of ingredients — flour, water, butter, sugar, sultanas, peel, yeast and salt made it our winner. Available in Carrigaline, Crosshaven and Adelaide Street, Cork.
Collins’ Bakery and Deli, 620g, €2.45
This loaf-shaped brack has a sticky, sugar finish and is traditional in style, light and well-fruited, with no mixed peel. A commendably short list of ingredients and no preservatives puts this high on the list, but, most of all, tasters liked the taste and texture. Very good toasted. A larger version, 1,075g for €4.45, is also available at the Youghal-based outlet. Fair value.
Jam, 633g, €2.80
Available in their shop in Kenmare and restaurant/shop in Hanley’s garden centre, Kinsale Road, Cork, this brack has light fruit with traditional mixed peel and a light spiciness favoured by tasters. The texture is quite dense and improved on toasting.
Supervalu, 500g, €1
With a ring, there is a good balance of fruit here and a tasty crumb, no peel. Glucose syrup is added, as is soya flour for texture, with lots of emulsifiers and preservatives to provide at least two weeks’ shelf life. For €1, pretty good value, so tasters added a point in their scoring.
Aldi, Ballymore Crust, 454g €99c
Complete with ring, this brack was tasty and had good texture with nice fruit balance. With a use by date a month away, shelf life brings with it preservatives of various kinds. Soy flour is used and usually helps to give the squeeze factor. Good for the price.
Old Mill 400g €4.
This brack comes complete with traditional charms and a note on what they signify to amuse all the family. Flour, egg, margarine, water, sultanas, sugar, peel and an unnamed emulsifier completes a commendably short list of ingredients. Added peel gives it a traditional taste and there is a good balance of fruit to crumb. A light brack liked by most tasters, but not given top marks.
Tesco Finest 454g €2.99
With ring included, this one has a soft, sticky crust. Very lightly spiced, it has a good fruit balance with a crumb that is just a little too dense for most tasters’ liking, but improves with toasting. 3% whiskey is not discernible enough to be of value.
Tea Time Express 400g €2.99
Containing a ring, cherries are added to make this a different looking brack. The crumb has a nice vanilla flavour. However, it’s quite light on fruit and in the mouth the texture becomes heavy. Not a favourite of any taster.
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