Warning: It’s Fruitcake Season!

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Extra! Dec 2015 Food

Soon they will be upon us— hundreds of them. Sodden with alcohol, their massive bodies bulging with strange green protuberances, they will attack us at our homes, at our friends’ homes, at our offices. There is no escape! It is the hour of the fruitcake.

It seems incomprehensible that something so many people find unsavory should be so much a part of a season of celebration, of feasting and sharing. But sometimes, the inexplicable has its own logic. “It’s not necessary for foods with a ceremonial significance to be palatable,” explained George Armelagos, coauthor of Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating (Houghton Mifflin, 1980). “The symbol is much more important than the taste itself.”

We respectfully disagree and thus have gathered several recipes that are sure to change your ideas about fruitcake. Maybe next year, your guests will even request it!

fruitcake_james_clarke_shutterstock_0_full_width.jpg

Fruit Cake. Image Credit: James Clarke Shutterstock.

Brazil Nut Fruitcake

This recipe was perfected by Mother Mary Clare in the monastery kitchen of the St. Scholastica Priory in Petersham, Massachusetts. Be forewarned: Brazil nuts are hard to find already shelled, so factor in about an hour for shelling a pound.

1 pound dried apricots, finely chopped
1 pound dates, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and chopped
1 pound shelled Brazil nuts, finely chopped
½ cup sugar
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sherry or brandy, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Thoroughly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a bowl, combine the fruit and nuts.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk to blend. Add fruit and nuts and mix thoroughly.
  4. In another bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon of sherry and beat until blended. Stir into flour, fruit, and nut mixture until smooth.
  5. Pack firmly into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until gently browned and firm to the touch. When cool, brush on remaining sherry.

Makes 1 loaf.

Chocolate Fruitcake

More a cake than a fruitcake, this winning combination of chocolate and dried cherries will keep for up to a week stored in a tightly covered container.

CAKE:

½ cup dried cherries
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped nuts

GLAZE:

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
⅔ cup chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup

FOR CAKE:

  1. Cover cherries and raisins in hot water and soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch tube pan, line with wax paper, and grease wax paper.
  3. In a bowl, add butter and sugar and beat until creamy. Add cocoa powder, egg yolks, and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and whisk to blend. Beat the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture alternately with ½ cup of water, until smooth.
  5. Beat egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the batter.
  6. Drain cherries and raisins and stir them, along with nuts, into the batter.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and frost with chocolate glaze.

FOR GLAZE:

Melt unsweetened chocolate and chocolate chips in a double boiler over hot water. Stir in butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add corn syrup, stirring mixture until it reaches spreading consistency.

Spiced Ginger Nut Fruitcake

 

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
½ cup chopped dried pineapple
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup finely chopped candied ginger
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup apple cider
¼ cup apricot jam

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Grease an 8-½x4-½-inch loaf pan, line with wax paper, and grease wax paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine nuts, fruit, candied ginger, and lemon zest.
  3. In a separate bowl, add butter and sugar and beat until creamy. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, and then vanilla.
  4. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ground ginger, and cloves. Add to butter mixture alternately with cider and stir until smooth. Stir in fruit mixture.
  5. Beat egg whites until stiff, then gently fold into batter.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  7. In a pan over low heat, melt jam, then brush on top of cake.

Makes 1 loaf.

Deborah Papier

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