Most of the Halloween traditions popular today have their origins in the Irish celebration of this festival. Halloween is associated with spooky events as Samhain was a liminal time, when the veils between the worlds of the living and the dead were more easily transversed and the souls of the dead were thought to visit their past homes. This is where the tradition of the pumpkin comes from -Irish families would hollow out a turnip (swede), place a candle inside, and put it on their window through the night. This was to signify that the dead were welcome to return. When the Irish immigrants moved to North America, this tradition evolved in to the carved faces in pumpkins that we are familiar with today. After the turnip was placed in the window, the eating, drinking, fortune telling and games would begin. Bonfires were used for ritualistic cleansing and protection. Trick or treating in costume is derived from the offerings of food and drink left out to appease the evil spirits or faeries, and the dressing up in robes to disguise oneself from them, or to imitate their form in the hopes of confusing them. Mimicking these spirits also involved playing pranks, hence the threat of a trick, if one did not get a treat!
Breac is one of the predominant foods which would have been eaten on Halloween. The dried fruits that a breac would traditionally be made with are raisins, sultanas, currants and mixed peel. I am not a great fan of currants and mixed peel, so in this version I tried out raisins, sultanas and cranberries. I guess therefore this breac is not so traditional as my granny would certainly never have put cranberries in a breac, in fact, they would have been relatively unheard of in Ireland a few decades ago. You could also replace about 50ml of the cold tea with whiskey to give this a kick!
This breac is made with spelt flour, which is a lot more nutritious than wheat. In place of the egg, I have used milled chia seeds with water, which combine to form a gel with the same binding properties as an egg, and with all the amazing benefits of chia. I have replaced refined sugar with coconut sugar. As well as being healthier, It is a perfect substitute in this recipe as traditionally demerara sugar would be used, which has a similar caramel colour and consistency.
- 375 g mixed dried fruit
- 275ml cold black tea
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 225 g white spelt flour
- 125 g coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tbsp ground chia or flax seed mixed with 6 tbsp water
Place the mixed dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the cold tea. Allow to soak up the liquid overnight. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius, and grease and line a loaf tin. Mix the flour, baking powder, coconut sugar, and mixed spice in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the chia egg replacer. Mix well with a wooden spoon, gradually adding some of the liquid from the dried fruit. You may not need to use all of the liquid, but the dough should be quite wet.
When everything is stirred though, add the dried fruit, ring and other objects if you are including them. Spoon the dough in to the tin and bake in the middle of the oven for around one hour. Allow to cool in the tin slightly before turning on to a wire rack to cool fully. Best served with (vegan) margarine if you use it, and a cup of tea!
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