St. Brigid’s Feast Day

February 1 is the feast day of St. Bridgid of Kildare, an early Irish Nun who was apparently baptized by St. Patrick himself. I never heard of the Irish St. Brigid, but Dominic’s birthday is February 1, so we thought it be would worth knowing more about her.

I was intrigued to discover that after becoming a nun she founded an art school at Kildare where a famous illuminated manuscript was created, the Book of Kildare, which has been lost.  Many fantastic miracles were reported of Brigid, but most important were her acts of mercy and kindness toward the poor and needy.

We’re going to add a few St. Brigid elements to our birthday celebration for Dominic. I found the book Brigid’s Cloak by Bruce Milligan at our library and a recipe for Barm Brack Bread in A Continual Feast by Evelyn Vitz.

Barm Brack is a traditional yeasted spice bread made on the eve of St. Brigid’s feast in Ireland.  I decided to give it a try before the feast day just to make sure it would work. Good thing I gave it a test run . .

Outside the weather was cold and rainy, but the oven warmed our kitchen while the heavenly aroma of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger put a groove in the bread baking!  Claire helped me with the preparation and kneading.  I love watching my children knead bread.  I enjoy the long, loving process of kneading and understanding my dough, and seeing my kids enjoying it makes my little ol’ heart sing!

The recipe contained a lot of butter, which makes for velvety dough that’s easy for the kids to knead.  But this recipe called for a full stick, which is a lot.  Alas, the gorgeous dough created a weird bread. I could tell something was wrong when I was bringing the dough together — it was like cake batter.  I tried adding flour.  The dough did not rise a bit despite my patient hovering.  I decided to just put in the oven and – BLAM – that dough exploded.  Literally.  The insides exploded through the crust:

“Mommy . . what is it?”

It looked like a turtle . . .

While it was baking it smelled divine and while it was warm it was yummy, but a bit heavy.  When it was cool it was good only for the hens.

The recipe contained too much liquid.  I found a similar recipe here with a more reasonable level of liquid in case you are hoping to make Barm Brack for St. Brigid’s feast, but it lacks some of the earthy spices in the recipe I tried.  So I will fiddle with both recipes and try to come up with a (nearly) perfect yeasted Barm Brack.   Yum!

All was not lost on our bake day!  Not only were the first morsels tasty, but Claire and Dominic saw an intriguing dusting of flour and turned it into an enchanted snow play forest:

Flour everywhere.  Flour in their hair, in their pants, on my curtains, under the table, under the refrigerator.  A sign of an afternoon well spent.

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