Around here the Christmas parties get started as early as the first weekend in December. I always like to have baking on hand - like homemade fruitcake - to serve to guests in my home or to bring as a gift for the hostess if we are going out. Consider this a friendly reminder to get your fruitcake started! A month is the minimum recommended time for allowing it to age, which means it's time to start cracking nuts and chopping fruit.
I am no fruitcake expert (have you ever seen it on a menu?). I have no family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation, no great culinary mentor who whispered me his secret recipe on his deathbed, just my own curiosity and eagerness to try a few recipes until I find one I like. Maybe once I do, I will play around with it until I am truly happy with it and then I will have a recipe to pass on to my children. (Note: if you have a truly stellar recipe, feel free to send it my way via email)
I chose this first recipe (Yes, first! I indeed have not one but two beautiful fruitcakes fermenting in the deep, dark recesses of my pantry) because I love dried figs and figs make up the sticky base of this interesting no-bake fruitcake. I can not vouch for it's taste yet, but I will be sure to keep you posted when I tuck into it come mid-December. Of course, by then it will be too late for you to whip up a batch for Christmas Eve, but if it really looks too good to be missed, and your holiday won't be merry without some, drop me a note and I'll ship some out to you. The recipe makes a very large batch!
I am hoping to convert some fruitcake atheists and make them true believers with this figgy concoction. We'll see.
At the very least, maybe I can help polish up the fruitcake's sadly tarnish reputation.
Figgy Christmas Fruit Roll
(adapted from MS Living Holiday 2000)
12 oz (3 ¼ cups) walnuts
4 ½ lbs (about 10 cups) dried figs
3 oz (½) cup currants
4 oz (3/4 cup) golden raisins
6 oz (1 cup) candied citrus peel, roughly chopped
7 oz buttersweet chocolate, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
5oz (1 cup) pistachios
6 Tablespoons brandy, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons anise flavouring
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
Cheesecloth for wrapping
Heat oven to 350F. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven until walnuts are just fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Roughly chop walnuts.
Working is small batches, place figs in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely minced. Transfer figs to a large bowl and add walnuts. Add currants, golden raisins, citrus peel, chocolate, pistachios, 2 tablespoons brandy, anise flavoring, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt, and mix well, using your hands works best!
Divide mixture into four equal parts. Dust a clean work surface with confectioner’s sugar and dust your hands as well. Gently mold each part into a log and then roll to smooth edges. You should have a cylindrical log about 2 inches in diameter and 12 inches long.
Gently brush off excess sugar with a pastry brush and place on a rectangle of cheesecloth large enough to wrap the log around. Brush each log with 1 tablespoon brandy, wrap well in cheesecloth and tie ends with kitchen twine. Roll logs in parchment, sealing the ends again with twine and place in a cool dark place.
Once a week for at least a month, remove parchment and sprinkle cheesecloth with brandy. Wrap well in parchment and store until ready to serve. Slice rolls into thin rounds to serve.