Wednesday, November 28, 2012
You have been led to believe that fruitcake is icky. You have been told that it is heavy and leaden and will sit like an anvil in your stomach. You have been told that only German grandmothers like fruitcake, and that they make too much of it and that you'd better run and hide when the mailman limps up to your door hauling a ten pound, loaf-shaped package from Oma. People, you have been misled.
As it turns out, fruitcake can be delightful. This particular fruitcake is actually pretty light, considering it's 50% dried fruit soaked in brandy. My mom (hi mom!) got a bee in her bonnet about fruitcake a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, so after the big day we hauled out the mixer and made a double batch of this recipe from King Arthur Flour. And lo, it was delicious. Plus it glows like a stained glass window:
adapted from King Arthur Flour
Mom had a longish list of people who should receive a fruitcake, so we made a double batch and I measured by weight (regular sized batch appears below). I have a Pro series KA mixer with a 6 quart bowl and the double batch filled it to the brim, so heads up. Also, a double batch filled 12 mini loaf pans (5"x2"), plus 2 small loaf pans (7"x2.5") and 1 regular loaf pan (8.5"x4.5"). I assume a regular sized batch will fill, uh, half that? The point is, it's a large recipe already. Mini loaves are easier for giving to other people, though, I think. Incidentally, this recipe uses a really interesting extract called Fiori di Sicilia which to me smells like excellent panettone.
We also bought mixed dried fruit from KAF; in addition to the fruits below it includes pineapple and date, so if you want to chop your own, feel free to include those as well.Feel free to mix and match fruit to your heart's delight, but please don't skip the candied cherries. They are the prettiest.
5 cups mixed dried fruit of your preference (20-25 ounces), OR:
2 cups golden raisins (10ish ounces)
1 cup dried cranberries (4ish ounces)
1 cup dried apricots, diced small (4ish ounces)
1 cup chopped candied citrus peel (4ish ounces)
1 1/2 cups candied cherries (10ish ounces)
1/2 cup brandy (or rum or yes I suppose you could use apple juice, but why?)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine the fruit (except the cherries), booze and extract in a bowl. Stir to combine and let sit overnight.
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 3/4 cups sugar (12.25 ounces)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (2.75 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmet
1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia if you have it
5 large eggs
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour (13 3/4 ounces)
1 cup whole milk
2 cups chopped pecans
More brandy (or the liquor of your choice) for brushing
Preheat the oven to 300. Spray your chosen loaf pans with non-stick spray. You may wish to have a few extra loaf pans around, I was surprised at just how many we got out of the batch.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and corn syrup. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour in three additions alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. When the last flour addition is mostly incorporated but you can still see some white spots, add the booze-soaked fruit, then the cherries and the nuts, allowing the mixer to do its thing and not adding everything all at once lest it spill all over the dang counter.
Fill the sprayed loaf pans 3/4 full. I suggest you put them all on a sheet pan for ease of transfer from counter to oven. Bake for as long as it takes for them to get golden, and for a tester inserted in the center to come out clean. Small ones will take about an hour, mediums ten minutes more and large loaves probably in the 90 minute range. Don't be afraid to put them back in for a few minutes if they're not golden all over. Fruitcake is a slow, old fashioned confection that can't be rushed.
Once they're out of the oven, let them cool for 15 minutes or so, brush them with more brandy, then pop them out of the pans and let them cool to room temp. Feel free to brush them more than once (I did!). Allow to cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic. We popped ours back into the mini paper pans we baked them in so they'd be cuter for gifting. Fruitcake will keep for a month as long as you brush it with more brandy once a week or so.
Slice thinly when serving, preferably alongside a cup of coffee or tea or maybe a hot toddy. Be filled with holiday cheer.