Saturday, December 12, 2015

For Serious - Fruitcake

Many years ago, when email didn't have pictures - 2005 to be exact, a recipe for fruitcake scrolled past my eyes that intrigued me.  It came from an older incarnation of World Wide Recipes (thanks for your great work Joe Barkson).  The original recipe is from a woman name Shava from Massachusetts who'd written it down after 30 years of tweaking by food co-ops.  And apparently the parent recipe was another century old.  Anyway - this recipe has a long history of getting altered to the current reality, and passed on.

Fruitcake has long fascinated me - but candied fruit had long disgusted me.  (Who decided bright green cherries were a good idea - I ask you?)  After all, with something that tasted so awful, but had such a persistent existence had to have a decent origin story.

It does.  It goes back to lack of refrigeration and other modern food preservation techniques - along with a need for travel-stable, calorie dense foods.  So we are talking the middle ages, when travel really started to become a thing.  (See the Good Eats episode "It's a Wonderful Cake" for more on this story.)   His recipe is an improvement, but I am certain mine is better.

The only draw back - this one takes some time and attention.  But I swear, once you get around to it, it is worth it.

A quick note - this recipe makes an ENORMOUS amount of fruitcake.  Like, for a commune, enormous.  I made a half recipe, and still had a ton.  So I'll give you amounts for 1/4 of the original.  But if you want to go big.... go real big.  I've also given volume and mass amounts -for the non liquids.  Using an electronic gram scale really speeds things up.

Fruitcake You Will Want to Eat

Start the fruit the night before!
Cooking Temp: 275˚F  

     Fruit Mixture:
120g (3/4C) raisins
227g (8oz) plump dried apricots
227g (8oz) dried berries (a mix of cranberries, cherries & blueberries are suggested)
140g (5oz) dried candied pineapple (not the "wet candied" look in the dried fruit section)
40g (1/4C) candied orange and/or lemon peel
100g (3.5oz) crystallized ginger
115g (4oz) walnuts (raw)
115g (4oz) almonds - sliced (raw)
1 bottle peach schnapps (any peach liquor between 36-48 proof or 18% - 24% alcohol)

    Flour Mixture:
195g (1 1/4C) flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

    Fats, Sugar and Spice:
115g (4oz) shortening - this really does need shortening, if you must butter - do ghee)
155g (3/4 C) sugar
2 Tbs molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mace
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t cardamom
1/4 t black pepper

3 eggs

cutting board
large bowl
your very largest bowl
mixer with the standard or paddle attachment (or large bowl w/ a strong spatula)
measuring cups and spoons
scale that measures in grams
parchment paper (or very greased brown paper)
2 standard (10in. x 4in. +/-) loaf pans (9x9 brownie pans will do in a pinch)
medium bowl
(spray bottle - optional, but AWESOME)
cheese cloth
cake tin or large tupperware

    Fruit Mixture:
Cut all the fruit, ginger and any whole walnuts into pieces no larger than the end joint of your pinky (small dice).   Place in your large bowl. Add about 1C peach schnapps.  Let it sit, covered, overnight.  Stir when you think of it.  If there is no schnapps at the bottom, add a bit more.  (Original recipe comment, "C'mon, it'll bake off.")

    The next day:
Measure out the flour mixture.  Set aside.
In a mixer bowl, add shortening.  Mix the shortening until it's fluffy.  Add all the sugar, molasses and spices.  Mix until uniform.
Add 1 egg, mix in, add 1/3 of the flour mixture.  Mix in.
Add the the next egg, mix, the next 1/3 of the flour.  Mix in.
Do the same with the last egg and last portion of the flour.

Preheat the oven to 275˚F.  Line the loaf pans with parchment paper.

Turn the mixture of flour, fats, sugars, spice and eggs into your biggest bowl.  With a spatula or clean hands, stir in the fruit mixture.  You should have a mixture of fruits and nuts barely held together with batter.

Fill each loaf pan 3/4 full (or less).  If you have extra, make "fruitcake muffins", using paper liners.

Bake for 2.5 - 3 hours.  (If you are using a 9x9 pan, check at 1.5 hours.  If you made muffins, check at 45 min.)
There are lots or variables here.  Your local humidity, the moistness of the fruit... etc.  So don't be afraid to check early.  Use a toothpick to check the center.  When it comes out clean - and/or you see the edges starting to brown, the cake is done.

Let the cakes cool completely.  Cover with a kitchen towel and leave overnight if you need to.

Post Cook:
Lift the cakes out of the pans using the parchment.
Choose the "easy way" or the "real way"  (You can do both).

Easy Way:
Cut into 1/2" to 1" slices.  Use the spray bottle to thoroughly soak the outside of the slices with the schnapps, or use a spoon to sprinkle the schnapps over the slices.
Serve with strong coffee or English breakfast tea.

The Bid'ness:
Bake the cakes on Thanksgiving weekend.
Cut into 2" slices.  Wrap each slice in cheese cloth.
Pour peach schnapps into a bowl.  Submerge each slice in the schnapps.  When the cheese cloth is thoroughly wet, place the wrapped piece of cake into your aging container - a cake tin or a large tupperware.
Close the cake tin, or for the tupperware place the lid on, but do not press it on.
When the slices dry out, and then every day or two going forward, spray thoroughly, or sprinkle with spoonfulls of peach schnapps.
The cakes may get a bit soggy, but let them harden up and repeat.
Hand out to deserving souls Christmas week, and eat some yourself.
Again - a great pairing is strong coffee or English breakfast tea.
Possibly Port.

Your life will never be the same again.

No comments: