Friday, December 3, 2010

Fruitcake is Not a 4 Letter Word



Monday Morning Post

Fruitcake has gotten a bad rap. That's not surprising when it's made with yucky, artificial tasting candied fruit poking out of a dry, commercial tasting batter.  And most fruit cakes are way too big so you wind up with half eaten, dried out cakes hanging around till Easter.  Not a pretty sight.

Well prepared, home made fruitcake made with real, natural, wholesome ingredients is absolutely divine and steeped in a rich heritage. Long before the fancy baking powder leavened cakes of today with their sugary icings and creamy fillings, fruitcakes were the norm. They were made without baking powder and were sweetened with dried fruit and often a little honey. Instead of icing, rum or brandy was brushed on top to keep the cake from drying out.

Fruitcake recipes are always long so they seem involved but they're much simpler to make than they seem. There are only three things required to make your home made fruit cake a spectacular dessert and late night nibble - soak the fruit in advance, line the pan and bake slowly.  Everything else is, well, a piece of cake!


Karla's Ginger, Rum and Apricot  Fruitcake
The flavors blend and soften as the cake mellows so give it at least 2 weeks before cutting.  Longer is OK.  If you cut it too soon, the rum is very strong tasting and sharp.

Next year, you can make this recipe months in advance and keep it in the freezer.  Then by Christmas it will be perfect!

Cuts best when cold so store the cake in the refrigerator.  Tastes best cold, too!
Serve in thin, small slices - with a little butter, if desired. YUM!

Makes 1 (8 1/2 X 4 1/2) inch loaf
20 - 24 servings

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Fruit must be soaked 24 hours in advance
Parchment (baking) paper needed to line the pan
Finished cake needs to mellow at least 2 weeks before serving

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3/4 cup dark rum plus extra for brushing on the finished cake
4 oz dried apricots (snipped into random 1/4 inch pieces - about 3/4 cup)
3 oz dried apples (snipped into random 1/4 inch pieces - about 1 cup)
3 oz dried currents (about 3/4 cup - raisins not recommended)
10 tablespoons softened butter (for the batter - margarine not recommended) plus a little extra to grease the pan (white vegetable shortening, oil or cooking spray not recommended for greasing pan)
3 oz crystallized ginger (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 large or extra large eggs (3/4 cup)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Grated rind of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

Prepare the Fruit the Day Before
Twenty four hours before you bake the cake, put 3/4 cup of the rum into a medium sauce pan. Stir in the apricots, dried apples and currents. Cover pot. Heat over medium until steaming - about 5 minutes. Cool in pot (covered) then transfer to a ceramic, glass or stainless steel container or bowl and refrigerate, covered, over night. (Storing in a plastic container is not recommended.)

Next Day
Remove the fruit from the refrigerator as you begin so it can come to room temperature.  Most, if not all, of the rum should have been absorbed.

Lining the Pan
Cut pieces of baking parchment to fit the pan as follows:
Cut 1 piece to line the bottom.
Cut 1 strip to line the length of the pan with a 2 inch over hang at each end to use in lifting the cake out of the pan.
Cut 1 strip to line the width of the pan with a 2 inch over hang at each end to use in lifting the cake out of the pan.

Remove the paper from the pan. Butter the pan making sure the corners are well buttered. Put the bottom parchment into the pan - pressing lightly into the butter. Position the length and width pieces over the bottom piece pressing them lightly into the sides so they stick to pan. Be sure you have an even amount of over hang on all sides. The corners of the pan will not be covered with parchment. That's OK. Crease the over hangs against the rim of the pan so they don't fold over the cake batter during baking. Set aside while making batter.

Make the Cake
Position the oven rack so the cake will bake in the center. Preheat to 325 degrees.

Pulse the white sugar and the crystallized ginger together in the food processor until the ginger is in small (about 1/4 inch) pieces. (No food processor? Cut the ginger by hand using a sharp knife. Toss with the sugar.)

Put the ginger mixture into the bowl of a mixer. Add the brown sugar, vanilla and the 10 tablespoons butter. Beat on medium until fluffy - about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Mix the flour, the spices and the lemon rind together in a small bowl. Add to the egg/sugar mixture. Mix well. By hand, fold in the rum soaked fruit. (A rubber spatula works well.) Almost all of the rum should have been absorbed but if it hasn't, don't add more than about 1 tablespoon of the soaking liquid to the batter. Reserve any extra liquid to brush on the finished cake.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread top level, making sure batter is evenly distributed and there are no air pockets.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes then (without opening the oven door) lower the temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking until done - about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours more. Cake is done when it is lightly browned on the top and it pulls away very slightly from the sides of the pan. A cake tester put into the middle of the cake will come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

Remove cake from oven.  Let it cool, in pan, 25 minutes.

Using a thin knife, gently loosen the corners of the cake (where there was no parchment) then carefully run the knife between the parchment and the sides of the cake. Using the over hanging parchment as handles, lift the cake onto a cooling rack and peel the parchment down from the sides. Let the cake cool completely - about 2 hours.

When cool, remove any remaining parchment paper from the cake and brush all sides of the cake (including the bottom) with the remaining 3 tablespoons of rum (or the soaking liquid or a combination of both to equal 3 tablespoons total).

Wrap the rum brushed cake in plastic then over wrap in foil- crimping the ends tightly. Store at room temperature for 2 days then put the loaf (without opening) into a plastic container with a lid (or a heavy, plastic freezer storage bag) and refrigerate for at least 2 weeks before serving. Alternately, cake can be frozen up to 6 months.

Bakers' Tips:
Use regular dried fruit.  Don't use extra moist or plumped fruit because it will not absorb the rum.

Be sure not to grate any of the white pith when you are grating the yellow part of the lemon rind. The pith is bitter.

Lining the pan with something other than baking parchment (like foil or waxed paper) is not recommended

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