Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fruitcake - The Good the Bad and the Door Stop

Yes we are talking fruitcake, but you don’t need to be afraid.  There is such a thing as a good fruit cake.

Fruit cake is an international dish with almost every country having their own variety.  In the Bahamas it is soaked in rum and has pineapple in it, the Germans have what they call "stolen" which is a dryer fruit cake that does not store well, the Italians have "panetone" which is similar to brioche, and the list goes on and on.  With different cultures and times attributing different uses, superstitions, and popularity to it.  Fruit cake is still often used as a wedding cake in both England and Australia; it was the original grooms cake, it was sent home with the guests as a journey bread that they could eat on the long ride home.  It is also said that if a girl puts a piece of grooms cake under her pillow she will dream of her future groom.  During the Victorian era, no proper tea time, any time of the year, would be complete without fruit cake.  Others saved the fruit cake to eat in the Spring, the last of the previous years harvest, as good luck for the new crops.  And it goes on and on.

The fruit cake that most usually feared, degraded or launched from special cannons is a recipe from England.  A very dense spiced cake that is made with candied fruit and nuts and stored for months.  The idea of the cake was that it could be made during the summer months when fruit was available and stored till the cold winter months to have a special treat.  The sugar preserves both the fruit and the cake, making it ideal for this.  Soaking in alcohol can give it a shelf life of years.  But what went wrong?  Why is it reviled by so many, but loved by so many others?  Over the years the use of out dated products, such as suet instead of butter, didn't account for changing tastes; other products changing, such as candied fruit (fruit simply dried and boiled in sugar) becoming the scary neon colored stuff it is today.  All this, plus a lot jokes over the years, gave fruit cake a very bad reputation, but fruit cake lovers will tell you there are plenty of recipes that make wonderful fruit cake. 

Mr PSC thinks fruitcake is okay, but loves my Mom's recipe.  My family has a great fruit cake recipe that mom found years ago.  Gone are the bright red candied cherries and pounds of dried citrons.  Instead there are lots of nuts and dried fruit, which is really closer to some of the more ancient recipes.  Our drying methods give us a much better quality of dried fruit than you could get in the middle ages when candied fruit cake was introduced.  Beside that long shelf life is irrelevant to us.

Batter (classic pound cake)
1 pound butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
12 eggs
1 pound  flour
1 tsp salt

Cream the butter with the brown sugar, add molasses, then beat in eggs and finish with  flour and salt.
Notice the Fruit/Nut to Batter ratio
Just enough batter to hold it together
Fruits and Nuts (approximately 16 cups)
1 pound blanched almonds- chopped (about 3 cups)
½ pound  pecans (about 2 cups)
¼ pound  walnuts (about 1 cup)
2 pounds golden raisins
1 pound dried currants
1 pound dried apricots (chopped)
2 pounds dried cranberries
1 cup dried or candied pineapple
½ cup brandy (or rum, or whiskey, or any full bodied spirit)
1 cup apricot jam

Fold the fruits and nuts into batter, it will barely hold all of them.  Then pour it into a well greased or papered loaf pans, I recommend mini pans if you have them.

Bake at 275 degree for 25 minutes in the mini pans, or for 1 hour in full size loaf pans, until a tooth pick comes out clean. Turn cakes out on to a cooking rack, then turn right side up.

While the cakes are still warm, melt the apricot jam with the brandy, and brush over cakes, repeat every 10 minutes till all the glaze is absorbed.

Allow to finish cooling, then wrap and store in an air tight container.
Yields 4 - 2.5 lbs. loaves (4x9)


1 comment:

  1. Well done to you, hope more achievement to you. If you are actually conscious about your health and want to keep yourself fit and healthy than keep in mind that good health absolutely begins from a healthy mouth.