Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Emergency Fruit Cake - The No-Bake Variety

Here is the third recipe for fruit cake in my Grandmother's book. It is quick and easy -- has less fat, but loads of sugar. (That kind of sounds like butt loads of sugar - it has that too. Don't tell my grandmother I said butt loads--that is very vulgar.)

I am going to quote my Grandmother because I just love what she says, "Between a busy Christmas and New Year it is easy to run out of fruit cakes baked in November, and this no-bake fruit cake can be easily made to fill this void."  So I know you are all running out of fruit cakes right about now! So here goes an easy and fun version.

This reminds me a bit of Rice Crispy Treats, but made extra Christmassy by having graham crackers as the binding agent and of course lots of nuts and fruit!

No-Bake Fruit Cake

1 pound marshmallows
3/4 cup scalded milk
1 pound nuts (I used pecans)
1 pound of candied fruit (I only did a 1/2 pound - at husband's request)
1/2 pound currants (My addition to make up for lack of candied fruit)
1 pound of dates cut into pieces (I used the food processor)
1 pint bottle of maraschino cherries
1 pound graham cracker crumbs (Once again the handy dandy  food processor)

Melt marshmallows in scalded milk.  I also had a low heat on under the pan to melt them a little faster.

Mix all dry ingredients together.

Combine marshmallows and dry ingredient together in a large bowl. Then pour into bread tins. I just poured it into a large casserole dish because I wanted to cut it into stars.  It was so sticky that I had to use wax paper to get it at an even level.

This is the best part, my grandmother said to cover with foil and then let it RIPEN in the refrigerator.  RIPEN. I put it next to the Diet Coke so that it felt comforted as I do when I know Diet Coke is in the fridge.

I assumed it was ripe this morning so I cut it into stars.  I had to put this picture in again, because it is just so dang cute and very, very sticky! Only one more fruit cake recipe to go!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hostess Fruit Cake -- The low of the season!

You make think that I've exhausted the whole fruitcake angle, but no, I have not! At a white elephant party last week I actually stole this 1 pound Hostess Fruitcake.

I stole it for several reasons:

1. I had never seen one before.
2. I currently have a strange and not altogether healthy obsession with fruit cake.
3. It was small 8 x 2 inches but quite dense at a pound.
4. I have enjoyed many a Hostess treat in the past.

I know it is unreadable here but here's the list:

1. 420 Calories per serving
2. 4 serving per package.
3. So every 2 inches has 420 calories for a whopping 1680 calories per package.
4. 72 g carbohydrates per serving
5. 12 g of fat per serving
6.  It says it expires on Feb 15, but doesn't give a year -- highly suspicious.

It sounds like that white paste stuff that you put in a 72 hour kit to keep you alive while help is on the way.

Well I ate a small bite.

A very small bite -- see that little bit gone from the bottom right hand corner. It was the worst thing I have ever tasted and I am an equal opportunity food eater--I'll try anything! It took a Coke Zero and a Tab to erase the taste. Too bad I don't have the ability to erase the memory. Was that too harsh?

(I have nothing against Hostess personally--but stick to Hostess Cupcakes!!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hints for the Perfect Fruit Cake

The other day, as I lugged a very heavy bag of fruit cakes into my book club, I wondered why I had just spent 4 hours the previous night making something that I knew most of the people would not like one bit. It gave me no small measure of perverse joy. I'm not sure what that says about me. I was NOT disappointed, however, when I received more than a few positive reviews. Maybe I can help preserve the taste buds for fruit cake for one more generation. It is a large mission but one I take up humbly.

I have found that for me it has become an acquired taste--just like my Aunt Dorothy's brew she made in the bath-tub and I was the only one with a sophisticated enough palate to enjoy. Yum! Those  were the days. Anyway, back to fruit cake, honestly I have found that I'm craving it.

So while I have taken a few days break from making fruit cake I thought I would still keep your appetites whetted by what my grandma suggested from her book. This should be your map to the fruit cake universe.

Grandma’s Christmas Cake Suggestions
Of Food and Thought, Page 375

*Don’t dry out fruit cake by over baking.

*Remember most fruit cakes are worth their weight in gold so follow directions carefully.

*Don’t skimp on ingredients—if you want to save, just make smaller recipes.

*Cool fruit cake in pan, and be sure it is cold before wrapping.

*Store fruit cake in foil or in air-tight container. Keep in cool place.

*Fruit cakes improve on storing; flavors blend and become more delicious.

*If fruit cakes are wrapped in cloth dipped in fruit juice, be sure the cakes are kept cool so mold does not form.

*Chill fruit cake before slicing, and the slices will be thin and perfect.

*Any of these cakes may be baked as cookies, if a little more flour is added.

*Try serving hot wassail and cheese with thin slices of fruit cake.

*Fruit cake crumbs are good sprinkled over ice cream.

*Fresh-colored gumdrops may be cut thin and take the place of candied fruit in fruit cake cookies.

*For New Year’s Eve garnish large silver platter of fruit cake with real sprays of holly.

I had to bold the information about mold--it is important--mold is bad. No moldy fruitcakes is my motto.

So then I thought--Hey I have some suggestions too:

*If you give fruit cake to anyone over 60 they will love you! It will bring back memories of their childhood and you will have fans!

*Fruit cake is heavy and is great for arm strength.

*Fruit cakes hold doors open really well.

*Fruit cakes seem like they are healthy, but really they are not, don't be fooled. You WILL GAIN weight if you eat too much. (My too tight jeans told me that this week!) And really, don't you want to get fat by eating uncontroversial yummy food like chocolate cake!

*Fruit cake is an expensive hobby.

*Be prepared for ridicule, here are some of the quotes I heard, "I didn't know anyone wanted to make fruit cake anymore." "My husband did not enjoy your fruit cake." I also heard a lot of guffaws and outright laughter when I handed people their heavy little package.

*Do not throw fruit cake--it will go through windows (Ours was caught before it actually hit the window, thank goodness.)

Please add your suggestions for fruit cake. It would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The moment you've all been waiting for--Fruit Cake #2!

It is time for fruit cake #2 while I am still high from the success of fruit cake #1.  This is a sophisticated concoction. My grandmother wrote, "The following recipe makes one of the best white fruit cakes you could ever dream of."  It is called "Fred's White Fruit Cake."  I decided to check with my mother to see exactly who this Fred character was, but she hadn't heard of him or of white fruit cake for that matter!  He must have skills to be in the cookbook though so I forged ahead.

Here's the recipe, once again my comments/changes are in red

Fred's White Fruit Cake

1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 t cream of tartar
1/2 t soda
1/3cups sweet milk (no idea what this is, neither did my mom, so I used half sweetened condensed milk and reg  milk!!??)
12 egg whites, beaten stiff
2 pounds white raisins (you heard me 2 pounds - I used regular because that's all I had )
1/2 pound candied pineapple sliced thin
1/4 pound candied lemon peel (cut into small pieces)
1/4 pound candied cherries (leave whole)
1/4 pound candied orange peel (cut in small pieces)
(For all of the candied fruit I bough already cut up fruit cake mix in a two pound container - totally cheating)
2 1/2 cups blanched almonds
1 cup shredded coconut

A plethora of expensive ingredients--again.

Soak the raisins overnight and dry thoroughly. (I so did NOT do this.) Mix with other fruit and nuts.

Cream the butter and sugar until very light.

Sift the flour and cream of tartar three times. (I just kind of mixed it in nicely.)

Add to the butter and sugar mixture alternately wiht the milk to which has been added the soda. (Again I don't know why she likes adding the soda to wet incredients before incorporating, it must be some kind of chemistry thing I do not understand.)

Fold in the fruit lightly.  (I had to get out the BIG spoon again--and I could not do it lightly.)

Fold in the beaten egg whites. (The mixture was quite dense I ended up having to break the dough with my hands and then fold in the egg whites. There is hardly any dough--with lots of fruit and nuts, but amazingly it all sticks together.)

Prepare four loaf tins by greasing well and lining with greased wax paper. I oiled 10 mini loaf tins and filled them 3/4s the way up. Because they were disposable foil pans I didn't need to line with paper because I knew I could get the fruit cake out.  Bake at 275 degrees F. for about 2 hours or until baked when tested. I baked for about 1 1/2 hours in the smaller tins and I checked often. 

Remove from pans, remove wax paper and cool. Paint with fruit juice. (Be careful not to use too much and soak.) I didn't remove the bread from the pans until it cooled a bit, then I turned them upside down on a cooling rack. I didn't paint with fruit juice, because I didn't want them sticky when I wrapped them up.

Wrap in wax paper and then in foil.  Fred says he stores his cakes in a stone crock to which he adds a cut apple. Isn't that charming!  Then occasionally he unwraps the cakes and repaints with juice and wraps them again. keep them in a cool place. Also charming and a little scary.

Here's the final product.

This cake has a chewier texture less like a cake and more like a cookie bar than the "Rich, Dark Fruit Cake" recipe. It also has a much more candied fruit flavor because there aren't any other flavorings like cinnamon or nutmeg.
Yes, the middle should be up--not DOWN! Thanks for pointing that out.
Look at that piece--quite a little fruit cake fiesta going on there!!!

Well, two of the four fruit cakes are baked. I am already exhausted.

Friday, December 3, 2010

10 Pound Fruit Cake - Are you kidding me?

Warning! Baking fruit cake can
make you batty!

Well, tonight has been a great education.  I decided to make Grandma Florence Pinnock's "Rich, Dark Fruit Cake." Several disasters, about $1,000 worth of ingredients later and it is now safely tucked in the oven for THREE HOURS. I put it in at 9:30pm. Note to self:  Read all of the recipe before beginning to cook at 8:30pm to see if you are going to be up all night waiting for it to bake!

According to my lovely grandma "Many, many years ago, as far back as we can read, fruits were gathered and dried and saved to mix with eggs, sugar, spices, and flour, and baked as special treat at Christmas time.  Fruit cake recipes have been handed down in families for generations to be used at this holiday season."  She has 4 fruit cake recipes in her book, Of Food and Thought.  Yes, you heard me, in her cookbook published in 1965 there are 4 different recipes for fruit cake.

Things I've learned:

1.  Fruit cake is like a religion.
2.  In the past there seems to be an unnatural love for fruit cake.
3.  Now there seems to be an unnatural hate of fruit cake.
4.  My grandma loved fruit cake.
5.  She wanted to share the fruit cake joy.
6.  Don't spill the egg whites, they are hard to clean up!

Questions Remaining:

1.  How could candied fruit be so gross?  It's candy and it's fruit it just doesn't add up.
2.  My grandmother says you can store these fruit cakes for a month -- does that make you scared?
3.  This recipe makes 10 pounds of fruit cake. Is that really necessary?
4.  Will these fruit cakes I make and give away last for an eternity in the great game of fruit cake roulette? Will it ever be ingested or just given away like a hot potato?

Time for pondering now. Think of a serene song as you contemplate.

Now, before you begin:

1. You will need super sized cooking implements, don't just try cutting all that candied and dried fruit up at one time in your food processor it -- Oh no, you will need either an industrial size food processor or work in batches (you could learn the hard way by letting it seize up before everything is nicely chopped).

2.  You will  need super sized bowl for mixing. Don't just try your wimpy Kitchen Aid you've had for years--it will start making very scary noises.  I also only had one spoon capable of folding in the egg whites at the end.

3.  I laid out all of the ingredients before hand--because there is a large amount of work to do just to prepare them to be mixed in. Here they are below (Note the 2 lbs of nuts, the 12 eggs, the full pound of butter, and the 2 pounds of dry and candied fruit)

Rich, Dark Fruit Cake
"First, a rich, dark, heavily-fruited cake, perfect for a wedding cake or a very special Christmas cake."

1 lb butter
2 cups sugar
12 eggs
1 1/2 t soda
2 t nutmeg
2 t cinnamon
4 1/2 cups unsifted flour
2/3 cup molasses
2 packages puffed seeded raisins (seriously what size is a package of raisins? Unnecessarily vague)
1 package current (Cruelly vague - was vagueness the way to go in the '60s?)
1 pound dates, pitted and cut in small pieces
1 pound walnuts
1/2 pound blanched almonds
1/2 pound pecans
1 pound candied pineapple
2 cups maraschino cherries

(Phew! That's a lot of ingredients)

I've had to do some major interpretation for the instructions. It seems as if we speak a different cooking language now.  I feel a little as if I've entered a worm hole and come out where I am just supposed to be able to infer the meaning in several places. I will point those out in RED.

Cream the butter and the sugar. ('nuf said)

Add the egg yolks, well beaten and then add the juice from the cherries. (Separate the eggs and save the whites -- they are important. And by the way -- it doesn't tell you this above but drain the maraschino cherries and save the juice!)

Add the soda to the molasses and beat until thick and add to the first mixture. (I have no idea why we need to add the soda to the molasses, but just do it! My grandma said so!)

Then add the flour and the spices sifted together. (Self explanatory)

Clean and wash the currants and separate the raisins, blanch and split the almonds; cut the cherries and pineapple into pieces and add the dates and mix all the fruit together and add to the cake batter. (It was at this point my mixer started to whine! TIPS:  1. currants come washed now --if you can't find currents use craisins, I did. 2. Separate the raisins? I don't even know what that means! 3. Thank heavens you can buy blanched split almonds! 4. I cut all the fruit up in a food processor in BATCHES 5. You will also need to chop the walnuts and pecans.)

(At this point I poured all of the batter out into a HUGE bowl and then mixed in the nuts with the only spoon in my house capable of stirring this concoction.)

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and then fold into mixture.  (This was a little like folding sea foam into clay soil, but it did work to lighten the mixture.)

Yes, the heavy wooden spoon is standing straight up in the batter.

Use a large 12x9x4 inch pan. (I didn't have a 4 inch deep pan, so I used a larger casserole dish and it seemed to work just fine.) Line the pan with 3 layers of greased heavy paper. (I used parchment paper.)  

BAKE AT 275 DEGREES FOR 3 HOURS!  (Bonus: You will have time to update your blog and clean the kitchen, because everyone else will be asleep.) You may bake the cake in a number of separate loaf tins. This amount will make a ten pound cake. the advantage of cooking it in one large pan and cutting it into loaves after baking is that there will be less crust, and the flavor is improved.
Fresh out of the oven. I tested it with a knife to make sure it wasn't overcooked.
Cool in the pan and then remove the paper from the cake. Store carefully.

I let it cool the rest of the night and then trimmed it up for placing in cellophane bags.

It made 14 mini loafs - You heard me 14! Sorry about the difference in color from the two pictures the first one was taken with a brighter flash. The cut up cake looks more like the real thing. The same thing happened to the picture below.

Here is one sliced ready for my children's breakfast. I thought it tasted quite yummy (but then again I had just invested 5 hours), they were ambivalent.

Here is the loaf cut up -- see all the fruit and nuts. I gave one to my mom this morning and she said grandma left the fruit bigger so you almost got whole fruits, but the taste was pretty similar.

Now I just need to give them away and see if I get re-gifted with my own fruit cake this Christmas. Will it be like a fruit cake chain letter? With me sending out 14 of just this variety I think it's inevitable.

Tune in soon for more Grandma Florence fruit cake wisdom!