Fruitcake is Awesome

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I know, lots of people hate fruitcake. If you’re that type of person, give me two minutes to try to convince you. You’re probably used to some kind of brick-like item, filled with tough raisins, gummy coloured bits of questionable origin, and bitter walnuts.

This is where my fruitcake defies that stereotype. I do add raisins, candied fruit, and walnuts, but it’s a boozy, moist confection. It contains a majority of dried fruits that actually resemble their natural form. There are three types of nuts and just enough candied cherries to make it look festive.

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This is great made several weeks ahead and practically marinated in brandy. It is equally delicious made at least a week in advance and allowed to “settle” in the refrigerator – this gives it time for the moisture from alcohol-soaked fruit to penetrate the rest of the cake.

A note about fruit choice: all of the fruit proportions are relatively flexible. Hate apricots? Use dried pineapple instead. Dried tropical fruits unavailable or too expensive? Use more dried cranberries and dates. Hate non-organic or artificially coloured fruits? Use dried natural ones exclusively. Part of the reason it has taken me years to blog this, after perfecting it in 2012, is that I kept forgetting to write down how much of what I used, so that you’d have guidelines to work from. The combination of fruits I have included here are what I prefer, but as long as they equal the same total volume of fruit, experiment away! All measurements of larger fruits are after they have been chopped and packed into a measuring cup.

Boozy Semi-Traditional Fruitcake – An original Agent Minty recipe

Makes 4 4×8″ loaves. Halve the recipe if you wish, with no problem!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau, Triple Sec, or Grand Marnier), or brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups brown raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried currants
  • 2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped dates (try to buy them whole and cut them yourself)
  • 1 cup citron cubes
  • 1 cup mixed peel cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped red and green candied cherries
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried papaya
  • 1 cup slivered blanched almonds
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup + 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 lb (340g) room-temperature Earth Balance hard margarine or butter
  • 3 cups (packed) brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup or cane syrup (I use Rogers brand) – Dark fruitcake lovers can use Molasses here
  • Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • Grated zest and juice from 1 orange
  • 1 cup brandy (the cheap stuff will do)
  • Parchment paper
  • Extra brandy or rum

Instructions:

Prepare the Fruit and nuts:

  1. Combine the raisins, currants, and chopped apricots in a bowl with the orange liqueur, and allow to soak.
  2. Chop up the rest of your fruit. I like to keep about 20% of my candied cherries intact, but it’s really just and aesthetic choice.
  3. Combine all chopped and soaked fruit, chopped nuts, and 1/2 cup flour in a very large bowl until evenly coated in flour.

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Prepare the cake batter:

  1. Combine remaining flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  2. With a stand mixer, beat Earth Balance until creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add in brown sugar and beat until fluffy, another 2 minutes.
  4. Add syrup or molasses, orange juice and zest, and lemon juice and zest, and beat again until mixed in.
  5. Min in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then add half of the brandy.
  6. Repeat adding in 1/3 of the flour followed by the remaining brandy.
  7. Add in the last of the flour and stir until it is relatively consistent.
  8. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir a few times, making sure any ingredients on the bottom have been mixed in well.
  9. Add half of the fruit mixture to the batter and stir by hand until partially incorporated.
  10. If you have a large enough stand mixer bowl, add the rest of the fruit and finish stirring it in by hand.
  11. If your mixer bowl is too small, add the batter-fruit mix to the bowl remaining fruit and stir well.

Prepare the pans

  1. Set oven to 300F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Don’t bother doing this earlier, as from my experience the first steps will take way longer than the five minutes needed to preheat an oven.
  2. Coat all loaf pans (even non-stick!) with cooking spray.
  3. Line all pans with parchment paper. This seems like overkill, but $30 worth of fruitcake stuck to a pan two hours from now won’t feel like a joke).
  4. Tear off a sheet of tinfoil for every pan you plan to use.
  5. Fill each loaf pan 1/2 to 2/3 full maximum. If you fill the pans more than 2/3, you WILL have fruitcake batter dripping onto the bottom of your oven.
  6. Evenly distribute the four loaves on the middle rack of the oven and place a sheet of tinfoil over each one. This prevents the tops from singeing.
  7. Every hour, shuffle the arrangement of the loaves so that no loaf spends the entire time in the same spot in the oven.
  8. Bake for 2 1/4 to 3 hours. After 2 1/4 hours, start checking the cakes for doneness. The middle should still be slightly soft, but passes a toothpick test. The edges should not be burnt!
  9. Remove to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

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Store and marinate

  1. Remove the cakes from the plans. Running around the edge of the cake with a knife can help. If a chunk of cake breaks off, you can stick it back where it came from.
  2. Store cakes in a tightly sealed freezer bag for two weeks at room temperature, or up to three months in a refrigerator.
  3. At least once a week, brush cake with a generous amount of brandy to increase deliciousness.
  4. Try to flip cake upside down every other time you add brandy, to improve liquor penetration.

Even if you don’t like fruitcake, why don’t you listen to a hilarious story about it. I can’t link to it, but if you have iTunes, Look up Vinyl Cafe, and the Episode “Rashida, Amir, and the great gift-giving.” You’ll be thankful that you don’t have to fight a squirrel for this fruitcake!

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A sweetheart of a tart

OK so it’s only 10 days late, but here’s what I made for Valentine’s day:

Love and Pie

Heart-shaped apple galettes!

I followed This Recipe, but substituted homemade rhubarb jam for the apricot preserves. I didn’t really measure the brown sugar and spices, I just sprinkled them on top of each galette until they looked yummy.

The galettes brushed with jam and waiting for apples

Annick loved them, and love me even more when she found out I made six, not just two. We ate them warm out of the oven, which was delicious! In the picture above I have a fork with them, but we ended up using our hands and eating them like giant cookies.

A rousing success and a definite do-again!

PIE PIE PIE

Annick and I were reading a brief article on the history of pie (it was rather boring, so I won’t refer you to it), and she wanted to know whether I would make her one.

Since I don’t have the cream “cheese” or tofu required for a peanut butter pie (I’ve always wanted to make one, but still haven’t), I made a canned and frozen fruit pie. It’s winter in Alberta, so the only pie-able, semi-local fresh fruits are firm apples, and I didn’t have more than one (soft) apple in my fridge.

Instead, I used what produce I froze and canned this summer. Below, is my peach-cherry-strawberry-cranberry pie:

PIE

If I were an American, I would make up some snappy patriotic name for this pie.

Ingredients:

1 single, unbaked 9″ pie crust, plus extra rolled out for the top – my recipe will be posted soon

2 cups of canned peaches (fruit only)

1.5 cups of pitted, canned sweet cherries

1 cup frozen strawberries

1/3 cup frozen cranberries (fresh work, as well)

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Approximately 2 teaspoons margarine or butter

1 teaspoon ground almonds (optional)

Instructions:

1.Set your over to 400 F

2. Line the pie pan with the bottom crust and place it in the fridge.

3. Roll out the top crust. Leave it in its waxed paper and place in the fridge.

4. Drain the canned fruit. Reserve at least 1/4 cup. I’d recommend draining the syrup into a glass, then you can drink it later with soda!

5. Combine the fruit, spices, and flour in a bowl and stir.

6. Pour the fruit into the lines pie pan.

7. distribute small (1/4 teaspoon) blobs of “butter” all over the fruit.

8. Sprinkle the nuts on top.

9. From your top crust, cut out stars or another shape with cookie cutters, and arrange the cutouts to cover most of the fruit on top of the pie.

10. Brush the crust and cutouts with the reserved juices. using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread a thin layer of “butter” over top – this doesn’t have to be perfect!

11. Bake at 400 F for about 20 minutes, until the crust is starting to get golden. If you use a clear glass pie plate, check sooner.

12. Turn the heat down to 350 F and bake 25-40 minutes longer. The pie will be done when the juices are boiling.

13. Allow the pie to cool and solidify for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

TIP FOR SUCCESS:

– If you bake the pie in a toaster oven, use strips of tinfoil to cover any areas of crust that are browning quickly. I have found that whiel toastert ovens are great for cooking pies, and doing so qucikly, I can easily burn my crust in them.