January 12, 2015

I've always loved fruitcake.

Maybe that's the English side of me, but I have nice childhood memories of Christmastime at my Grandma's house playing cards, sipping tea and eating fruitcake with hard sauce. (What can I say, I'm an old soul).

So for this year's Christmas baking project (after with last year's eggnog), I thought I'd try my hand at fruitcake. But first, some wisdom from comedian Jim Gaffigan on the topic of cake. If you're impatient, he gets to fruitcake around 4m 20s.



The fruitcake joke in this video stems from the opposite view of fruitcake I have. Namely, that it's a joke. And when I told some people I was making fruitcake this season, that's a bit of the reaction I got.

But for anyone who's ever had a really good fruitcake, I know you know better.

Now apparently, most American mass-produced fruit cakes are alcohol-free (lame... says the pregnant blogger).

So obviously mine had to have booze in it.

Unfortunately, buying alcohol - even for baking purposes - is much less fun when pregnant. (Though nobody at Hy-Vee batted an eye when I had to get a manager to pull the E&J brandy from the locked top shelf cabinet for me).

The recipe I used was Alton Brown's Freerange Fruitcake. Bonus, there's a video for that too if you follow the link! Okay, here are the ingredients.

The Goods are all ready!

Ingredients:

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
1/2 cup sun dried cranberries
1/2 cup sun dried blueberries
1/2 cup sun dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 cup gold rum
1 cup sugar
5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
1 cup unfiltered apple juice
4 whole cloves, ground
6 allspice berries, ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken
Brandy for basting and/or spritzing

Miscellaneous dried fruit.

Directions

Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight, [or microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit]. Obviously I let this stuff sit overnight. You know, to keep it traditional. It didn't really look a whole lot different before and after, honestly. But the fruits had definitely taken on a significantly boozy thickness.

Pre-alcohol soak
Post-alcohol
Other ingredients are all prepped and ready
Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)

Simmering along nicely
Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture.

Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts.

This is when things got a little messy... literally.

Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.

Make sure the mixture fits in the loaf pan you use. I may have added a bit more fruit than the recipe called for, and as a result ended up with this look in a single loaf pan.

This is what too much batter looks like
The one thing I forgot from the baking classses I never took is that things expand while baking. So if you end up with something that looks like the above, I'd recommend distributing to two pans before you put in the over, it overflows, makes a huge mess and you have to correct while the oven is on full blast. Then your 'after' picture ends up looking like this...

Ended up with two fruitcakes! Twice the fun.
Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan. Then you seal up in an airtight container and keep spritzing every 2 - 3 days with brandy throughout the holidays. You can also freeze, but these babies didn't make it through New Year's.

But that's not all. There was also... The Hard Sauce.

If you haven't had the pleasure, hard sauce is really easy to make and keeps for months when refrigerated. Though it is called a sauce, it's not really a liquid and when refrigerated is actually a solid. So it's technically more of a spread when you let it come up to room temperature.

And it's also really tasty since it's also just sugar, butter and - yes - booze. Specifically bourbon. I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe, though you could probably half the alcohol if you're looking for less of a kick. ENJOY!
Hard Sauce. Aka Frosting.


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