Friday, November 02, 2007

Psst! It's Fruitcake Time!

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!

If the figs don't do it for you, consider a few of the other ingredients rolled into this mosaic confection: Dark chocolate, toasted walnuts, golden raisins and pungent spices, all doused with a hefty shot of brandy, swaddled in cheesecloth and hidden away so the flavors meld.

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
Parchment paper
Kitchen twine

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.

Makes four 12 inch rolls.


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I love the look of the fruitcake in a log. I used to make fruitcake every year starting in late October. The longer it sits sprinkled with brandy the more the texyure is liek cutting butter when it's time to serve.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

My husband loves fruitcake and my family considers him quite odd for it. I always think of making some for him, but I usually think of it way too late. Thanks for the timely reminder!

Nora B. said...

I'm a fruit cake addict. I can go through my partner's grandma's fruit cake very quickly (he has to hide it from me). I don't have the recipe YET but I do intend to spend an afternoon at her place helping her with the cakes and hopefully she will divulge the well-guarded recipe.

This is such a great idea! Since it's getting warmer here, I wonder if I will be able to do that without the logs getting mouldy.... What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Every year I make a panforte, which is a Sienese fruitcake, well, more of a nougat hazelnut/honey/citrus confection really, and you do not need to wait a month to start eating it! I'll email you my recipe.

Great blog by the way! Very inspiring pictures and recipes.

Anonymous said...

oh my god.. i think it would be great! The recipe sounds wonderful.. And for this one to be no-bake is even better..

Kajal@aapplemint said...

oh my my ! these are some wonderful snaps .... really and the rolls looks so damn beautiful. I swear u'd have people chasing you for some of those gorgeous friut cake rolls. Well done honey !!! i'm saving this recipe :D

winedeb said...

Aimee you just brought back some wonderful childhood memories for me. (And yes, that was quite a few years ago!) Our next door neighbor would make her Christmas fruitcakes about this time of year also. She would do the same by wrapping them in cheesecloth soaked in brandy. Oh my gosh, I can smell them now. Christmas is just around the corner!

Sandy said...

They look delicious and I love that there's no baking Aimee.

Shayne said...

I was just thinking the other day that it is time to start making fruitcake (do you think i like it, look at the name of my blog) and I now have to figure out how I am going to balance the kids, school and the cakes.

rusvaplaukė said...

Yum, I made one today, inspired by your post! I think I added too many add-ins because it was hard to make it stick together. We'll see how this turns out (I ate the "leftovers" which didn't stick - delicious!)

Angel said...

I love how you wrap the fruitcakes, they look like a fun present.

Aimée said...

Hi Valli- UR 2 Funny! I am hoping for that nice texture when the time comes.

Hi Lynn- Poor guy, he obviously sees the potential fruitcake can have!

Hi Nora- Ohhh, sounds like you have an important task at hand. Good luck. I wish you success in getting the recipe!

Hi Venusia- Welcome to UtHC! PLEASE email me your enticing panforte recipe! I had panforte in Italy and loved it. Thank you so much for reading.

Hi Scott- I'm glad you think it sounds good. I'll let you know soon!

Hi Kate- The fruitcake was a dream to photograph. it doesn't col off, or loose it's shape or anything annoying like that. Merci!

Hi Deb- Fruitcake is certainly nothing new, but I hardly know anyone who makes it nowadays. I hope you can enjoy some over the holidays to bring back some more memories!

Hi Sandy- Yeah, it's more like 'cured' than 'baked'!

Hi Shayne- Your fruit cake must be really something...or else you have a lot to live up to with a blog name like yours! :)

Hi rusvaplauke- It does soften as it ages. Hope it turns out for you! Thanks for stopping by UtHC.

Hi Angel- I though so, too. It's too bad they are hidden away in a dark corner and not on display somewhere!

Anonymous said...

I'm usually one of the only ones gobbling up fruitcake, even the mediocre sort, when we get some. I can't wait to try this kink.


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