One new way to celebrate Halloween: Make it Celtic.
Actually, the old Celtic festival of "Samhain," or 'Summer's End' (pronounced 'saw-en') came close to the date. Scottish colonists celebrated "All Hallows Even" on the same night. Eventually the two blended. Jack-o-Lanterns were carved -- but from turnips!
Departed souls are said to be able to walk freely on this night. So to protect their families, householders would cover mirrors and sprinkle holy water around their buildings and farm animals. (Frankly, if the Dearly Departed want a crack at our chickens, I can tell you who's going to win -- and it's not going to be ghosts.)
Some famous shades are featured on Irish Central this month, including the White Lady of Kinsale. She is thought to be an aggrieved widow of a soldier who was shot for sleeping on the job. Which explains one of her favorite hobbies: pushing military men down the stairs.
'Barmbrack,' or 'speckled cake,' a fruit-studded sweet bread, is a favorite dish to serve on an Irish Halloween. This version has been adapted from the traditional recipe given on Irish Central. (Go here for that one.)
Serve it with a glass of cider, and stay close to the woodstove. Ghosties and ghoulies may be out tonight.
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar (1/2 cup, if you like a sweeter bread)
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg
1 tablespoon yeast
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (pecans are even better)
Microwave the butter and milk together until the butter is slightly melted; add sugar and spices. Let sit until warm, not hot, to the touch -- then add yeast. (Hot milk will kill it.) Let sit again for 10 min., if possible, to proof. (Go ahead at this point, if your time is limited.)
Quickly mix in the the rest of the ingredients; your dough should be moist and somewhat heavy. (Tip: for high altitudes, use heaping cup measurements of flour -- it helps.) Cover in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled in size. Punch down, then shape into a loaf. Brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar and let rise again until doubled.
Bake 40 min. at 400 degrees. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf should come out clean.
Serve warm in slices, slathered with butter.
|An Irish cemetary -- just for inspiration, mind you|
(This post was also featured on the Holiday foods blog.)