Monday, December 1, 2014

I Burned the Fruitcake...and a Recipe

I burned the fruitcake.  That is why there is this attractive picture of a snowy bush instead.  I had planned a victorious photo of the first fruitcake of the season.  The bush is gone thanks to re-landscaping at the parsonage but the picture remains to help console me after today's baking disaster.  I am not quite bereft.  But, still...

Actually  it isn't really a fruitcake at all but a fruit-nut bread because I see no reason to drown it in booze like you are supposed to.  Also, I use fruit found in nature.  Still, the bar is so low for fruitcake that when people try it they are sure it is the best fruitcake they ever tasted.  Who am I to correct them?

Whatever it is, I burned it pretty bad.  I make a lot of these every year.  It gets me in the Advent mood and then I can give them to people.  This year I had some challenges that I previously didn't need to deal with.  First, we have a new stove.  Second, I was running around doing too many things.  Third (and crucially) I misread the cooking time.  Things weren't turning out right.  The outside was OK but the inside was still goopy.   Instead of blaming myself,  I blamed the stove and turned up the heat...

Anyway, you can write your own conclusion about taking time for the holidays, mindfulness and whatnot.  I am too depressed.  I will freeze one of the poor things and have it for breakfast later in the season.  The other I will start munching tonight after I practice the Nutcracker on the ukulele for Sunday.  I am sure that it will get me back in the mood...

Every year when I churn these things out, some folks ask for the recipe.  When not burned they are quite yummy and worth the effort.  Just pay attention to those cooking times!

Fruit-Nut Bread of Advent Awesomeness

It should be noted that I am not a great baker.  This recipe is modified from a couple of cookbooks that I usually use.  One is the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that my parents bought me when I got an apartment in college.  The other is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  If you know someone who does not have a copy.  Get them one for Christmas.  There is also a vegetarian one.

This is for two loaves because no one makes just one.  That is silliness.

1 stick of butter
2 cups white flour
2 cups wheat flour
2 cups sugar (a small amount (1/4-1/3 cup) of this can be brown sugar if you are a New Englander)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 cups mulled (heated with cinnamon and cloves) apple cider
(other juices in a pinch but I actually will use a strong herbal tea first and it really should be cider)
2 eggs
2 cups dried fruit
1 cup walnuts chopped

About the fruit:  Sure, you can use what you want, but if you asked for my recipe, the cider and the fruit are key.  I use a small amount (1/4 cup) of crystallized ginger.  Then I hit stuff that feels Biblical to me.  I use apricots, dates, figs, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries usually.  All in their dried form and then steeped in the hot cider (I also add the butter) for about 45 minutes.  The steeping gives them enough time to mingle and then cool before adding the eggs, which you do not want to cook too early.  The rest is easy, put the dries in the liquids.  Stir gently until it is a sticky mess.  You might need a teensy bit more cider.  Put it in the loaf pan and...

Cook it at 350 Fahrenheit for 1 hour!  Don't make the same mistake I did...

There ya go, my Advent gift to you.  By the way, I am now eating the pseudo fruitcake and the middles are fine...

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