The Guest List / Irish Barmbrack

This is a classic who-dunnit mystery set during a wedding on a small remote island off the coast of Ireland. Similar to Lucy Foley’s other book The Hunting Party, this book has two separate timelines and is told from multiple perspectives. In fact, I found this book to be so similar that I accidentally photographed the wrong book cover with my bake. (Please excuse the shoddy photoshop job!) With a creepy and isolated setting, multiple suspects with motive to kill, loads of secrets threatening to be revealed- this book had the potential to keep me on the edge of my seat. However, reading it so shortly after her other novel did take away from my enjoyment.

Inspired by the Irish setting, I decided to make a traditional Irish Barmbrack (fruit bread). Often made at Halloween, there is a tradition of hiding various items inside the loaf, each with its own significance. If you found a ring you were destined to marry within a year; a pea meant you’d remain single; a stick meant you were doomed to an unhappy marriage; cloth meant poverty was on the horizon; and a coin prophesied good fortune or riches. I have a feeling the characters of this book would have found a lot of ominous items in their barmbrack if they had tried it.

Irish Barmbrack

Ingredients

  • 1 cup tea (cold, strong brewed)
  • 2 cups assorted dried fruit
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 cups self rising flour 

Directions

In a bowl, combine the dark steeped tea with dried fruits and cover with cling film, and allow to soak refrigerated overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a loaf pan with parchment paper that has been greased.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the tea and fruit with egg, spices (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg) and brown sugar. Stir to combine thoroughly, then add the self-rising flour.

Mix until all of the flour is incorporated into a wet dough, then transfer the dough into your loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour then check the color of your baked bread (if it is getting too dark, cover with aluminum foil to keep from browning too deeply).

Your bread should be fully baked between 1 hour and 15-30 minutes. Transfer the baked loaf to a wire cooling rack to cool before slicing and serving.

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