Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Fruitcakes can no longer be used as door stoppers

One thing that makes today's fruitcakes better than ever before are the many new and delicious dried fruits available today. Time was, when if you wanted dried fruit that wasn't loaded with chemicals and tasted good, you had to dry the fruit yourself.

True to form, the new kids on the fruitcake block stay moist, improve with age, travel exceedingly well (probably all of the way to Iraq), and are so rich and good that a small slice goes a long way. Meaning, you can store it in the refrigerator and enjoy it at Easter if you can hide something so tasty that long.

There is no leavening ingredient in fruitcakes. They are by definition, heavy, dense and a little bit goes a long way. Don't expect them to rise. They are lethargic and delicious. They don't have to fight their way up in the world. They is what they is. And, what they is, is delicious.


Fruitcake Jewels

These little cakes are covered with circles of marzipan that can be decorated. (See below.)

You can speed things up by buying candied orange peel rather than making your own as directed in paragraphs one and two of the directions. Candying your own can be done weeks ahead of baking time.

2 medium juice oranges
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur or water
1/2 cup dried currants
4 large moist dried figs, finely diced
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Candy the Orange Peel: Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Using a small sharp knife, slice off the ends of the oranges. Make 4 lengthwise cuts through the peel of each orange to divide it into quarters. Remove and cut the peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips. Cut the strips crosswise into 1/4-inch dice; you should have about 3/4 cup. Place the diced orange peel in a small saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, then lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Drain, return the peel to the pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the diced peel and transfer to a bowl. Combine the granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in the saucepan. Stir in the orange peel. Bring to a boil over low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the orange peel has absorbed all of the sugar syrup, about 12 minutes. Transfer the candied peel to the prepared baking sheet, spreading it out in a single layer with a fork. Let cool.

Making fruitcake: Preheat oven to 325 F. Generously butter and flour two 12-hole mini-muffin tins (about 2-inches in diameter and 1-inch deep); if using nonstick pans, they only need to be buttered. In the small saucepan, bring the Amaretto just to a simmer. Put the currants in a small bowl and pour in the Amaretto. Stir in diced figs and candied orange peel. Beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in superfine sugar and salt; beat for 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes. Fold in flour in 2 additions. Stir the pecans into mixed fruit, then fold the fruit-nut mixture into the batter just until incorporated. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling them just to the top. Use fingertip to smooth surface. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned around the edges and they spring back when lightly pressed; do not overbake. Set pans on racks to cool completely. You can stop here if you wish and just brush with strained apricot jam. Wrap well and save for Christmas. Or, you can ice and decorate them with marzipan. (Directions below.) Makes 24 mini-fruit cakes.

Decorating Fruitcakes

Ordinary kitchen tools, such as a vegetable peeler and a bottle opener, can be used to decorate

Fruitcakes. Or you can simply wrap a loaf of fruitcake in a sheet of marzipan which will help keep it moist and fresh, plus adding the flavor of sugared almonds. Here are the steps for decorating with marzipan.

7 ounces marzipan
1/4 cup apricot jam
Confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons water, rum or orange-flavored liqueur

Dust a work surface with confectioners sugar. Divide a 7 ounce tube of marzipan in half and roll out one half into a round about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out 2-inch circles using a biscuit cutter, preferably scalloped, or a glass; reserve any scraps. Repeat process with the remaining marzipan half. Knead all of the scraps together, roll out and cut out more circles. You should be able to make a total of 24. In a small saucepan, stir the apricot jam with 2 teaspoons of water or liqueur over moderate heat until melted. Strain mixture into a small bowl. Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Lightly brush the tops of the cakes with melted jam. Center a marzipan circle over each cake and gently press a decorative design into the marzipan, being careful not to cut through. Transfer the cakes to the prepared baking sheet. Broil for about 5 seconds with the broiler door open until the marzipan just begins to brown. You may have to rotate the tray or remove some cakes.

Old St. Nick's Fruitcake

Bake 1 day or up to 2 months ahead; cool and wrap in cheesecloth saturated with orange-flavored liqueur, rum or brandy. Chill airtight. Every 10 days moisten with more liqueur. Serve thin slices; wrap remainder and continue to age.

2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pound dried apricots
2 cups pecan halves
1/2 pound dried pineapple
2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 pound dried cherries or blueberries
1/2 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or water

Preheat oven only to 275 F. Lightly butter a 5 1/4- by 9-inch loaf pan. Line with cooking parchment. Beat butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until well blended. Beat in molasses. Combine flour and spices and gradually sift into egg mixture, beat just until blended. Set aside 6 apricots, 10 pecan halves and 1 pineapple ring for decoration, if desired. Cut remaining pineapple and apricots into 3/4-inch pieces. Stir fruit and nuts into batter. Scrape into pan, pressing to eliminate air pockets. Make top level. Bake until cake is firm in center when touched, about 3 hours. If it browns too rapidly, drape with foil. Cool in pan on rack at least 2 1/2 hours. Lift out cake; peel off parchment. Mix apricot jam with liqueur and brush top of cake. Arrange remaining fruit and nuts decoratively on cake. Brush more apricot jam mixture over fruit and nuts. Wrap airtight and chill at least 1 day. You can eliminate decorations and wrap in marzipan, or simply leave undecorated but glazed. Makes 25 servings.

You can enjoy a holiday fruit cake until Easter

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